The GOP Attempt To Redefine Rape

This article isn’t about legislation; I want to start off by saying that. This article is about freedom, the freedom that is given to us by our government and the freedom that can just as easily be taken away by this same government, if we allow them to do so.

The cause of this recent epiphany of mine, you may ask? The recent bill, titled the “No Taxpayer Money for Abortion Act,” proposed by the House of Representatives (with 173 co-sponsors coming from the Republican Party) attempted to re-write the definition of rape.

The bill has been re-worded to include a clause stating that funding for abortion will only be given in the event of an act of forcible rape, if a minor becomes pregnant as a result of incest, or if a physical disorder of the mother will cause death or harm in the case of a pregnancy.

This change would mean that anyone who is not a minor or a woman with a physical disorder would not be able to access any healthcare funds when it comes to having an abortion. Even those who are raped must now face the “legal consequences.”
The important thing about this bill is the phrase “forcible rape.” This new way of viewing rape has never been legally defined by previous legislation, but the GOP here wishes to draw a distinction between rape and forcible rape.

So the question arises: what makes a rape forced? When is a rape not forced? And what distinction is the GOP trying to create? The fact is that the literal, accepted definition of rape is when a woman or a man is forced into having sex with another person. This doesn’t seem to be enough for the Republican Party, however, whose religious morals once again get in the way of any civil rights progress being made.

My main concern with this bill is the fact that the government is given the power to dictate not only what constitutes as “rape” but where the taxpayer’s money should go. Because we live in a system where we elect representatives to cast votes in our name, this type of legislation can arise. How is it the government gets to decide what constitutes “forced rape”? A representative from moveon.org says it perfectly: “Bruises and broken bones do not define rape — a lack of consent does.” Is the act of rape not enough to warrant an abortion? If you are morally opposed to it, chances are you would not be having the abortion to begin with, so why must the government make this moral choice for us?

The same question can be asked of gay marriage. In California, an idea based on biblical scripture is currently keeping two people in love from enjoying the bonds of holy matrimony. In a country where our forefathers made a distinction that church and state should be kept separate, we still choose to let our laws be defined by the church.

The Enlightenment period showed us that the church should not rule our lives. Were we not given the right to live in a free, secular country where religion does not dictate our laws?

My emotional critique aside, I must profess my pride in the media as well as the citizens of this country. Under pressure from the media and other advocacy groups like moveon.org, the GOP has decided to amend the original literature of “forcible” in their bill.

One particularly humorous thing that can be noted, in response to last week’s article about Washington elected officials using Twitter to their advantage (and disadvantage), tweeters learned that they can use Twitter against these very same candidates. Thousands of people rallied together, virtually, to demand a change by posting their discontent and adding #DearJohn at the end to make it easy to find other supporters of this cause.

The Twitter topic is proof positive that we as citizens have the power to critique our government. The GOP relenting is one small step in taking down the bill, but the battle is not over just yet. This right to free speech should never be forgotten. We must understand, especially as students about to join the “real world,” that the power always remains in the hands of the public, no matter what decisions the elected few make.

Sara Naor is a first-year film and media studies major. She can be reached at snaor@uci.edu.