For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Of course, there is a well-known tension between the idea of abortion being about murder (as opposed to the regulation and punishment of non-reproductive female sexuality), and an exception for pregnancies caused by rape. If the idea is that the unborn child is innocent, then the idea of a rape exception makes no sense. If the idea is that rape renders the mother innocent, then it does -- but that just goes back to the notion of abortion regulation being about judging women for having sex.
But in any event: to the extent we are saying that the massive trauma of being raped cannot be ethically reconciled with forcing the victim to give birth to her rapist's child, this law is incredibly insensitive to the wellbeing of rape victims whose rapists didn't use (physical) force -- as in the case of many statutory and date rape cases. Basically, it's back to the old days of that not really being rape.