UPDATE: The language has already been changed.
ORIGINAL POST: The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a recent proposal that has not yet been passed, contains the usual exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother’s life. But unlike earlier legislation like the Hyde Amendment, it uses the phrase “forcible rape.” This has concerned pro- and anti-abortion feminists alike. All Our Lives writes:
Because neither the bill nor the Federal criminal code defines “forcible” rape, it is impossible to be sure of what this means. Does it include date rape? Rape in which the victim was drugged to the point of being unable to consent? Rape in which the victim was asleep or unconscious? Rape in which the victim was threatened with force, even if that force was not ultimately used? Rape in which the victim was mentally impaired and could not consent?
All of these situations are rape. Women who have had these crimes committed against them, whether or not they become pregnant, are harmed if we as a society deem their experiences to be something less than “real” rape.
As a law student, my initial thought is that this is a case of bad drafting. Somebody thought “We should put a negative adjective before ‘rape,’ to show that we think rape is really bad”– and wound up communicating exactly the opposite. If I’m right, we can expect the word “forcible” to disappear in the wake of bad p.r., with no actual effect on how the law operates. Slipping someone a date rape drug is a use of force, as is threatening someone at knifepoint or imposing sex on a mentally disabled woman.
Nevertheless, feminists are right to demand clarification. The uncertainty of the language is itself damaging. Abortion advocates are using this to malign us all. Now is the moment for pro-life women to stand up.