House Bill #3 (Flickr/ U.S. Mission Geneva (CC by 2.0))
Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey is attempting to redefine the word “rape” under House Bill 3 for reasons addressing abortion funds.
The Republication congressman introduced the third bill of the year, called the “No Taxpayer Funding Abortion Act,” into the House in late January. It calls for the permanent banning of federal funding in many cases of abortion.
It includes the Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976, a bill prohibiting health care programs like Medicaid from funding abortions except in cases of incest, rape, and danger to the mother’s life.
The Hyde Amendment was nearly a fluke, according to Congressman Henry Hyde, the proposer of the bill. While the Medicaid Bill (H.R. 3962) was originally being proposed, Hyde was approached by Rep. Robert Bauman of Maryland to “make an issue” of the $50 million in the bill proposed for 300,000 Medicaid abortions.
Hyde said Bauman did not want to offer the amendment because the rest of the House knew his disposition. However, Bauman felt he had a better chance of getting the bill to pass as Hyde was a novice with only one year of office in Congress under his belt, .
“Not [all] of it made a lot of sense,” said Hyde in an interview with Dr. Fred W. Beuttler. “But anyway, that was all right.”
Bauman wrote the amendment, thereby taking away the $50 million toward the abortions, said Hyde.
“Much to everyone’s surprise, including my own, my amendment passed,” said Hyde.
The bill was almost immediately challenged as being unconstitutional, and was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, under the title Harris v. McRae. In a four to five decision, they ruled that the amendment was constitutional.
The Supreme Court argued, “Why do you have a right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade? You don’t have a right to have it paid for by the government. You have a right to free speech. You don’t have the right to have the government buy you a megaphone or a typewriter,” said Hyde.
After declaring it constitutional, the amendment became a law, and since then has been reinstated every year.
Smith’s new Bill proposes this amendment to be made permanent, as well as expanding it to include banning indirect funding that could potentially come in contact with abortions, according to the summary from OpenCongress.
“For example, it would deny tax credits to companies that offer health plans that cover abortions and it would block anybody with insurance that covers abortions from receiving federal subsidies, even if the abortion portion is paid separately with personal funds,” according to the summary.
Finally, it would redefine rape to read “forcible rape,” therefore making it harder for women to receive funding for coerced and date rape pregnancies.
In addition, abortion funding to rape victims as a result of incest will only apply if the victims are minors.
California Senator Barbara Boxer has already given more than $550,000 in opposing the bill’s pass, while House Speaker John Boehner called it a “top legislative priority,” according to ABC news, and currently supports the Bill,
Other opposition comes from the National Organization of Women (NOW). Terry O’Neill, NOW president, told CBSnews’s Political Hotsheet that the “forcible rape” redefinition was “outrageous.”
“It takes us right back to the 1950s, when women had to prove they were physically assaulted,” O’Neill said.
However, the Bill did not define “forcible” and leaves it open to determine how and what women will need in order to prove the rape was “forcible.”
Then on Feb. 3, Smith told Politico that the word “forcible” would be changed to the original working in the Hyde Amendment, yet as of Feb. 9 the word had yet to be removed.
173 House members were in support of this Bill as of early February.