Thanks to outcry from feminist activists and pro-choice politicians last week, the Republican Party has removed its controversial “forcible rape” provision from H.R. 3 (otherwise known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act). While it’s a small victory that the inflammatory term – which Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) calls “a violent act against women” – is no longer part of the act’s rhetoric, the Republican Party’s war on reproductive freedom wages on.
Following the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion, Medicaid covered the procedure until 1977, when the Hyde Amendment went into effect, severely restricting federal funding for abortion services. The amendment has been renewed every year since its inception.
According to NARAL, H.R. 3 would narrow the already limited rape and incest exceptions established in the 1976 Hyde Amendment, as well as deny Medicaid coverage for abortion to survivors of statutory rape and incest victims who are 18 and over. The act would also deny women in the military access to abortions at overseas military hospitals, even when women are willing to pay for the service out of pocket.
The Republican anti-abortion effort is growing with alarming consistency. One hundred congressmen so far have co-sponsored a related bill introduced by far-right Congressman Joe Pitts (R – PA) known as the “Protect Life Act.” The proposed legislation would provide legal protection to doctors who refuse to perform abortions, even at the expense of the patient’s life, as well as impose a hefty tax on all businesses that seek to provide full reproductive heath coverage to employees. The bill goes further than any other in American history in encroaching the rights of a woman to receive an abortion when her health is at stake.
Along with infringing on a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy, these GOP measures are particularly harmful to low-income women who depend on federally funded programs to provide health care and family planning services, a topic that activists Sady Doyle and Eesha Pandit explore in their recent segment on GritTV. Abortion is primarily a public health issue, and many women die each year due to lack of safe abortion care in countries where the procedure is banned or heavily restricted. Now more than ever it is imperative to support reproductive freedom organizations like NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood, and other advocates who are working to defeat the anti-choice bills. The so-called “Protect Life Act,” along with H.R. 3, are only two prominent acts in a slew of anti-choice legislation that seek to effectively ban abortion and subject women’s bodies to fundamental religious ideology – even if it kills them.
Senti Sojwal works with PopDev as a research and writing assistant. She is a second year student at Hampshire College where she is concentrating on creative writing and race and gender studies. A native New Yorker, Senti is a voracious lover of literature and hopes to someday travel the world in search of light and laughter.