To take a page from Senator Harry Reid's book: if you're a woman anywhere to the left of Fred Phelps, I don't understand how you can in good conscience vote for the Republican Party.
Once elected by voters allegedly disaffected by the Democrats' record on job creation and pulling our country out of its prolonged economic slump (a slump engendered by disastrous GOP-enabled tax policies and financial deregulation, for those keeping score at home), it didn't take long for the new Republican majority to show its true colors. First came the pointless H.R.2, a purely political gesture of a bill to repeal the recently enacted Affordable Care Act. Designed only to fulfill a campaign promise, this bill had absolutely no prospect of success--and would, in fact, have expanded our country's deficit over time.
At that point, with the signature issue of repeal out of the way, rejected by the Democratic Senate, and off the table, one would have expected the Tea Partiers in Congress to introduce something sweeping that would fulfill their other signature issue: reducing spending.
Instead, the 112th Congress' second offering, H.R.3 (the numbering being off by one because the Congress has reserved H.R.1 for the Speaker) reflected the worst of what we've come to expect from the Republican Party--except this time, with the zealotry of a desperate blackjack player getting ready to double down and hit on fifteen. Despite losing a number of Senate seats they ought to have won--Colorado, Nevada and Delaware come to mind--by nominating candidates far outside the mainstream on social issues and thus allowing Democrats to maintain control of the Senate, the Republicans in the House unveiled legislation that was ostensibly designed to restrict "taxpayer funding of abortion"--but went so much further than that. The much-discussed and annually renewed Hyde Amendment, whose purpose is precisely to limit federal subsidies of abortion procedures, has been an unfortunate but well-established detente between pro-life social conservatives and their counterparts who actually support a woman's right to self-determination. But the odious H.R.3 is so much more.
The Hyde Amendment has always specifically exempted victims of rape from the federal funding ban, even though the hypothetical child resulting from a rape is no less innocent than one resulting from consensual procreative activities--which clearly goes to show that the funding ban clearly has much more to do with punishing women for daring to have sex than it does with "protecting innocent life." As originally written, however--before a gigantic outcry from across the nation forced a reconsideration of this idea--H.R.3 would have narrowed exempted rapes to those considered "forcible." Date-raped young teenager? Out of luck. Plied with alcohol or drugs? Too bad for you. Physical or mental disability? Oh well. Victim of incest? Grin and bear it--literally.
But someone is going to have to determine whether a rape is "forcible" enough to qualify for taxpayer funding, right? So how is the GOP proposing this happen? Maybe each rape victim should be led through a miniature version of a CSI episode to investigate her cuts, bruises and defensive wounds to figure out if she put up enough of a fight--because if she didn't die fighting, she really wanted it, right? Or maybe the GOP Congress can empower a Congressional Rape Panel modeled after the "death panels" that exist in Sarah Palin's alternate reality, and this panel of wealthy older white men can evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether a rape is bad enough to merit consideration for an abortion. And lest you think I'm joking, some people actually think it's a good idea. Remember this gem from South Dakota State Senator Bill Napoli some years ago?
BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.
Bill Napoli and those like him have clearly spent a lot of time thinking about issues exactly like this, so they seem like prime applicants for the GOP's newly empowered rape severity panels. What say you?
Even outside of its redefinition of rape, however, H.R.3 will have a chilling effect on health insurance plans that provide abortion services--but more on the hypocrisy of that in a minute.
One would think that after seeking to redefine rape, that these appropriately embarrassed misogynist barnstormers would give it a break for a while. But no. At least one Congressional Republican has made a modification to another abortion-related bill, H.R.358. And this modification is simple: it would allow hospitals to make a "decision of conscience" to let women die.
Even as they attempted to modify this rape-related provision found in two pieces of legislation, H.R. 3 and H.R. 358, these lawmakers inserted a new provision on page six of H.R.358, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care when necessary to save a woman’s life.
Once you're done redefining rape to imply that if you didn't escape or die trying, you deserved it; or writing a bill that would allow a "hospital of conscience" to exercise that conscience by letting you die--it's hard to imagine where the Republican Party might go from here. Or maybe there is nowhere else to go, and the real intention is to produce proposals so extreme that that the horror created by the rest of H.R.3 goes unnoticed by comparison.
The objective of H.R.3 is not to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion. As mentioned, the Hyde Amendment already does that. Rather, the objective is to influence private insurers to stop spending their private dollars paying for abortion services by preventing individuals and businesses who pay for those insurance plans from taking the tax credits that they would normally receive from doing so. The fact that Republicans and conservatives would call tax credits resulting from purchasing private insurance plans "taxpayer funding" is, of course, hypocritical: fiscal conservatives love to claim that tax cuts and credits result in the government taking less of your money--unless it's this type of tax credit, in which case the money all of a sudden becomes the government's money that it is then giving back to you. But regardless of this ideological inconsistency, this "moderate" version of H.R.3, should it be enacted into law, would likely result in the dropping of abortion coverage by major private insurers, leading to a massive decrease in availability for lower-income women. This, of course, is the entire point. John Boehner's female relatives will always have access to abortion services, either at home or abroad, because they have the money, resources and connections to access a provider and pay for the service. But this high-priority legislation will essentially insure that millions of other women don't have the same opportunity.
The voters in this country should take a good, long, hard look at what the Republican Congress has introduced and promoted in its first weeks in office. A Congress and a party that was elected in a desperate quest for more jobs has shown itself once again to a subsidiary of the fundamentalist elements of its base. As it is, the voters should determine if this is actually the Congress they want in 2012; but women especially should reconsider any inclination they might have otherwise had to vote for a party that seeks to redefine rape to include physical violence, and then allow hospitals to let them die as opposed to terminating the pregnancy.
If you vote GOP...you're asking for it.