Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Let's Get Opinionated

The great thing about living abroad and being American is that I still have the option to tell Congress what I think and to exercise my voting rights, etc.

The great thing about having a blog is that I can tell other people (people I don't even know) what I think and why. (Even better, they can tell me if they agree or not. Sometimes it doesn't take much to start an intelligent dialogue. Though please be respectful.)

Now I know as a journalism major (journalist?) and someone who might like to get into journalism again one day, it might not be the wisest of ideas to go airing my opinions on the Internets. But I'm pretty sure I crossed that line awhile back. Maybe I'll just have to become an op-ed writer or columnist or something.

Sorry, sometimes I get a little amped up but I will move on to my point now.

Congress is making a huge mistake in trying to include the redefinition of rape in its newest bill concerning abortion. The bill, H.R. 3, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), originally sets out to decrease the use of taxes to fund abortions. Maybe you've heard of this already? (Also, check out those reporter skills just coming right back to me.)

The bill doesn't set out to stop abortion altogether, simply to cease payment for the procedure with Federal dollars (by the way, that includes money in your tax-exempt Health Savings Account which I'm pretty sure is your hard-earned money whether you've paid taxes on it yet or not). It's amazing the new approaches politicians come up with knowing that most people will probably sit around not paying attention. 

Honestly, in this particular ranting session, I'm not concerned with whether or not tax-dollars should or shouldn't be used to provide for abortions whether they're the result of a rape or not. That's an argument for another day.

The exemptions in the bill are my major concern at the moment as they would have an effect not only on abortion but on victims' rights, the prosecution of sex offenders and, in the long run, the definition of a sex offender.

Under the new bill, the only exemptions which would allow for an abortion to be funded by tax dollars include the following: 

‘The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion--
‘(1) if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest; or
‘(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
 So let's see if I can help you break down the legalese. 

Sections 301-304 are the parts that say taxes and federal dollars of any kind cannot be used to fund abortions. 

Part two is an exemption to Sections 301-304 which has been around for quite some time and even most people who are anti-abortion would allow for this clause in legislation attempting to ban abortion altogether. It's certainly not surprising to find it here. If a pregnant woman's life is in danger due to her pregnancy, it is generally acceptable to terminate the pregnancy.

The first exemption is where things make me want to scream at the top of my lungs and it seems many in Congress have fallen for it. (According to MoveOn.org, 173 members of Congress support this bill.) It essentially says that (aside from women's whose lives are in danger) the only other people who can get an abortion funded by taxes must have essentially been held down and beaten, legs pried apart ('forcible rape') or must be a minor sexually assaulted by a relative ('incest').

First there is no strict definition of 'forcible rape' currently on the books, nor is there one suggested in this bill. That being said, it has become evident that it apparently doesn't include sexual assault that occurs if the victim has been coerced, drugged or somehow incapacitated. (I bet drug dealers are stocking up for the eminent rise in demand for roofies.)

Way to set us back a hundred years, Rep. Smith. (Actually, many of the rights associate with sexual assault were only gained as recently as the 1970s and '80s. Sad but true.)

I don't know about you, but last I checked, just because the lady's not conscious doesn't make it OK to  have your way with her. (Also, I certainly believe the definition of rape also applies to men who are victims of rape. This particular bill applies to women because their lady parts house babies, but my argument is about the definition of rape, not abortions. So guys, you have rights too.)

You may also take a look at the bill and see that incest is not considered so offensive if it is committed against adults (got to love those defining clauses), that statutory rape is apparently not an issue worthy of an abortion and  marital rape is also a totally awesome environment in which to bring up a child. (At least the kid would have two parents, right?)

Again, my concern is not what effect this redefinition of rape would have on a woman's ability to get an abortion. (Whole other argument here that involves giving an inch and taking a mile.) It is the fact that if we redefine rape in this way, people who drug, coerce, and/or incapacitate others and then sexually assault them will go free. Those who are victims of statutory or marital rape will have no laws which protect them. 

Under this definition, we can no longer feel safe. We will no longer have any sort of legal discourse in order to expose and penalize sex offenders. In fact, many won't be considered sex offenders in the eyes of the law any longer and would never even be considered for prosecution.

So, once you have considered my argument and done your own homework, I encourage you to sign this petition sponsored by MoveOn.org.

It specifically targets the redefinition of rape which could cause sweeping changes not just in abortion cases but also in rape cases. Remember, this isn't about the abortion bill or even rights specific to women, it's about the ability to feel safe knowing there are laws that prohibit sexual assault in all its forms.

For more information:

Huffington Post Editorial
Another Link to H.R. 3
The History of Rape (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

1 comment:

  1. i personally like your opinionated posts. and i'm proud of you for taking a stand.

    and i signed the petition earlier tonight. <3


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