In the wake of the firestorm over a “legitimate rape” remark, Republicans in Iowa and Nebraska are under scrutiny for supporting another controversial phrase — “forcible rape.”
House Republicans tried and failed to inject the term into a bill last year as part of an effort to restrict the use of federal dollars for abortion. It has now been resurrected in the wake of Missouri Republican Todd Akin's controversial remarks about “legitimate rape” and whether a woman can get pregnant as a result of rape.
Akin has since apologized for the remarks and said he meant to say “forcible.”
Democrats nationally are firing off dispatches and criticism against Republicans who signed onto the forcible-rape measure, targeting GOP congressional candidates in Nebraska and Iowa and all the way up to GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Reps. Lee Terry, Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Rep. Steve King of Iowa were among 227 co-sponsors of the bill known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. (Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa signed on as a co-sponsor after the controversial language was stripped from the measure.)
None of the Midlands Republicans returned phone calls Tuesday or Wednesday to talk about “forcible rape” or to explain what was intended by the term's use. Most issued press releases either condemning or chastising Akin.
“Rape is rape. There is no splitting hairs over rape,” Ryan told a Pittsburgh television station Wednesday after being asked to explain the term “forcible rape.”
The controversy over “forcible rape” revolves around the so-called Hyde Amendment, a bill that is periodically renewed in Congress to restrict the use of federal dollars to pay for the abortions of poor women who qualify for Medicaid.
Almost all such federally funded abortions are forbidden except those for women who are either the victims of rape or the child victims of incest.
Last year, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey tried to restrict the use of federal funds even further by inserting the word “forcible.”
At the time, anti-abortion activists argued that the language was needed to close a loophole that could conceivably allow any teenager to be eligible for a federally funded abortion on the grounds that she was a victim of statutory rape, even if she had consented to the sexual encounter with another teenager.
However, the change was quickly condemned by abortion rights activists, who accused Republicans of attempting to redefine rape by excluding statutory rape and date rape.
“In the mind of these proponents, a rape is a very, very narrow situation in which a woman is held at gunpoint or knifepoint and never consents,” said Sara Rosenbaum, an abortion rights supporter and law professor at George Washington University.
Republicans and anti-abortion activists have noted that the word “forcible” is used by the FBI as part of its reporting of crime statistics, in which the federal law enforcement agency makes a distinction between forcible and nonforcible sex offenses.
“It is common parlance in law enforcement to distinguish from underage voluntary sex — e.g., an 18-year-old man with a 15-year-old girlfriend,” said Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life.
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