Counterpoint: Redefining rape sets dangerous precedent

I have a problem with anti-abortionists.

It's not that they believe that a woman should not have the right to choose. It's not that, although they call themselves pro-lifers, many of these people are pro-death penalty, pro-war and pro-gun. And it's not that they call me a whore when I go to Planned Parenthood to pick up my birth control.

It's their problem with rape victims.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed a bill, House Resolution 3 or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which redefines rape in order to restrict the number of women eligible for a taxpayer-funded abortion. The bill is almost certain to die in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Currently, women who are victims of incest or rape or whose health is endangered by giving birth are eligible to receive federally funded abortions. Rape includes date rape, rape while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and rape while not being in the right mind-set to give consent.

The Republican-backed bill tried to change what was considered “rape” by qualifying it in the new legislation as “forcible rape.” They have since dropped that language, likely from the instant backlash this new language prompted.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a press conference, identified the  “common sense legislation” as one of the top priorities in the House. This is telling.

Once again, a bunch of old men want to tell women that if they didn’t fight back hard enough, how could their experience be rape? This takes us back to the ‘50s and ‘60s when what a woman was wearing was relevant in her rape case.

So, yes, the bill has been modified to exclude its original language, but the fact that redefining rape was a solution to the abortion problem is disgusting.

And fine, maybe you're not a supporter of federally-funded abortions, and yes, maybe taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to get rid of your night-of-passion oopsie. But to quantify rape is dangerous. To tell a woman that, “Yes, we're very sorry he took advantage of you, but sweetie, maybe you shouldn't have drank so much,” is unfair to women.

My issue here is not about people being against abortion. My issue is about the precedent this bill still has the potential to set. When that type of language is written into a bill, it is representative of a mood, of a general feeling in the country. If Congress redefines rape and characterizes it by the level of force that occurs, the door is opened for date-rapists and people who take advantage of women but don't break any bones or leave any bruises.

It is not about the bill, though I object to it on its own terms. I object to a room full of old men trying to tell me that when I had too much to drink and was taken advantage of, that it doesn't count. This anti-abortion movement is taking a modern country full of liberal ideas and setting the clock back to the ‘50s. I don't want to be a housewife. I don't want to be a victim, and this legislation has the potential to make me one.

Rape is a hard enough crime to prove without redefining it in terms of the level of violence. According to the 2005 National Crime Victimization Study, 60 percent of rapes go unreported. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network did the math. Even if the rapist is arrested and goes to trial, there is only a 16.9 percent chance he will actually serve jail time. Fifteen of every 16 rapists walk free. What will happen when only violent rapes count?

Reach Oonagh at

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