Just an Emotional Issue

The outrage du jour is that House Republicans are backing a bill that tightens already restricted federal funding for abortion by re-defining “rape.” The old restrictions were that federal funds could be used to pay for abortions in the case of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life. But H.R.3 – No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act specifies that the rape exception is only for forcible rape.

This leaves out non-forcible rape, which would include underage, physically helpless, and mentally incompetent victims. I believe it would leave out a woman who was violated after being doped with roofies. From West’s Encyclopedia of American Law:

Most jurisdictions have special statutes for sex offenses committed with an underage victim, usually termed statutory rape laws. … The law also considers physically helpless and mentally disabled victims to be incapable of giving consent to sexual acts. Physically helpless individuals include those who are unconscious, paralyzed, restrained, or otherwise incapable of resisting the sexual acts. Mentally disabled victims may include those who are permanently mentally disabled or those who are drugged and in a temporary state of mental disability. Some state statutes even include involuntarily intoxicated individuals in the category of temporarily mentally disabled victims.

Further, under the proposed law, if the parents of a 12-year-old impregnated by a 34-year-old pay for an abortion themselves, they cannot use funds from a Health Savings Account or use the cost as a medical deduction for tax purposes.

So far reactions to this on the blogosphere are coming from the Left, with the exception of James Joyner, who writes that “the rape exception was never logical but rather a concession to an emotional issue.”

That is, if one believes a fetus at a given stage of development is a human life worthy of protection by law, the events leading to the pregnancy are irrelevant. We don’t, after all, countenance the murder of post-birth children conceived pursuant to rape. But the idea that a woman should be forced to bear the emotional trauma of carrying a constant reminder of a violent, awful crime for nine months — and then be forced to either look at the child every day or bear the alternative trauma of giving up the baby — is just so emotionally wrenching that we’ve carved out an exception.

So big of us. But Joyner keeps digging —

But does this really hold in the case of a statutory rape which, despite the name, frequently isn’t really a rape at all?

No? Who says?

Again, this is a queasy subject.

In other words, it’s “just emotional.”

We can all agree that a 9-year-old lacks the emotional maturity to give meaningful consent to sex with an adult and that an adult who violates a child is a rapist. But we’ve raised the bar on childhood in recent years, extending it well into puberty. Within living memory, it was common, at least in rural areas, for girls to marry and start having children in early puberty. Generally, with men significantly older than they were. Now, though, most states make it a crime for a 19-year-old to have consensual sex with their 16-year-old girlfriend.

Is a pregnancy arising from that circumstance really comparable to one arising from being jumped in a dark ally by a stranger and violated under threat of death? Really?

Well, Joyner, I’d say that until you’ve been through it yourself you have no way to know. But then, I’d argue that the people with “emotional” issues are the Republicans who would rather compel a 12-year-old, or someone too mentally or physically impaired to resist, to go through with a pregnancy than help her terminate it. And I think it’s a damn shame people let their emotions get in the way of judgment or even an average amount of human compassion. But that’s Republicans for you.

Joyner doesn’t agree with the law, mind you, but only because he thinks it’s bad politics.

Steve M. reminds us that many righties continue to cling to the fiction that rape doesn’t result in pregnancy, anyway, and he links to some “right to life” sites making that claim.

Dennis G. at Balloon Juice re-names the bill The Rapist Protection Act of 2011. Yeah, pretty much. See also Scott Lemieux.

Related: See Nicholas Kristof, “Tussling Over Jesus.”

20 thoughts on “Just an Emotional Issue

  1. I feel sick.
    Don’t you have any feelings for other people?
    ‘Have you no sense of decency?’
    Not an atoms worth?
    How about and Adam’s worth, you religiously cruel religious sociopaths?

    For every Everest of stupidity that comes from them, they have to top it with something lower than the Marianas Trench in cruelty.
    Congratulations! A new low!!!
    This isn’t meant to be funny at all, and itclearly isn’t – but if statutory rape isn’t ‘rape,’ is anal rape in prison really ‘rape?’
    Why don’t you go experiment and find out. I mean, “Within living memory, it was common in” at least most male prisons since prisons were created.
    Rape isn’t sex. It’s control, with a lot else involved that has little or nothing to do with sexual pleasure, let alone love and feelings. You conservatives should know, it’s your governing principle.

    Have they identified the ’empathy’ genome, and can we start to treat these “people” sometime soon, before they entirely wreck this country and the planet it sits on?
    Never mind.
    I think it’s clearly time for “human” life to end on this planet because there’s nothing humane about it. We may call people “RAT’S,” but rats might be an improvement over what’s in control now.

  2. Now, though, most states make it a crime for a 19-year-old to have consensual sex with their 16-year-old girlfriend.

    If this chart is accurate, no, they don’t — it says that the age of consent is 16 in 31 states. There are also age-gap exceptions — teens aren’t prosecuted for sex with minors two to four years younger than they are in some states under so-called Romeo and Juliet laws.

  3. I saw a semi truck on the highway yesterday with this written on the back of its trailer: It’s a child not a choice. Isn’t this typical of the rabid pro-lifers, a women’s life , her health, her mental state, not to mention her future has no bearing on anything, a mass of unrecognizable cells has all the rights, the woman means nothing. What a bunch of knuckle draggers.

    • I saw a semi truck on the highway yesterday with this written on the back of its trailer: It’s a child not a choice.

      I’d like to see a truck that says “It’s a woman, not a major appliance.”

  4. But does this really hold in the case of a statutory rape which, despite the name, frequently isn’t really a rape at all?

    Somebody needs to get into counseling!

    Years ago at a church I used to attend there was a youth pastor who got involved sexually( oral sex only) with a 13 year old girl in his youth group. When he was discovered and arrested, he was mystified by the fact that he was being sent to prison because what happened between them was in his mind considered an expression of “love”. Some how he felt that his feelings toward the girl negated the law and that he was unjustly treated. He saw himself a society’s victim.

  5. How about this: “Like free markets, women deserve to make a free choice, and not to have to go through ‘Forced Labor!'”

    If we’re not careful – and ADAMENT!, “Choice” will join “Gun Control” as the third rails of politics, taking the place of Social Security and Medicare.
    We’re nearly there.
    Where are the Democrats?

  6. Well, hopefully this perverted bill will die in the Senate, or under the veto pen. My feeling? If they can use MY tax dollars to fund wars I didn’t ask for, I don’t see why we can’t help women in trouble– rape or no rape.

  7. It’s amusing (though in a sick, twisted way) to see righties making this argument. After all, states have been raising the legal age of consent and vigorously prosecuting the resulting “rapes” at the urging of righties. Now the righties want to argue it’s not rape after all, but only when that means preventing the girl/woman from obtaining an abortion under the rape exception. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that righties tried to have it both ways.

    As for my own personal belief, abortion should be legal for any girl/woman who feels she needs one, without having to jump through all the hoops (ie forced counseling, parental consent, mandatory ultrasounds, etc).

    As for the age of consent, that’s tricky. According to current laws, probably half of US citizens have been raped, even if they don’t know it. According to the chart linked by Steve M above, I was “raped” (I’m male, by the way). Without going into lurid details, my first sexual experience occurred when I was 17 and my high school sweetheart was 18. That was in California, which has “no age gap provision” or “mistake of age defense.”

    • Candide — For the past several years several anti-choice activists groups have tried to get abortion clinics closed for not reporting underage pregnant girls to police. I take it clinics respect the wishes of the girls, who may be too traumatized to confront the rapist. It’s a difficult issue, but it seems to me that forcing a girl into the public and into confronting her assailant, if she’s not ready, would be something like a second rape. I remember when I wrote about this in the past I got a bunch of hate comments (deleted) accusing me of being pro-rapist. But it seems they aren’t all that serious about statutory rape, after all.

  8. This legislation is the afterbirth of the 2010 election.

    The evangelicals believe that ANY pregnancy is the WILL of GOD. The evangelicals believe that EVERY abortion is a flawed act of man to thwart the Will of GOD. This has nothing to do with secular politics – it’s a christian crusade!

    It’s a political tenet I favor, that moderates decide most elections. My liberal vote will certainly be canceled by some wingnut. The battle in most elections is for the guy who can identify with both sides of an issue. IMO, properly framed, this proposed legislation is political suicide IF democrats push it to the forefront in an election. Because this won’t fly with moderates.

    I hope that the House continues with this garbage for two solid years and I hope the same 117 (if I remember) republicans who signed on to this are so aroused by it, that they write even more ridiculous legislation. It’s all fodder for the next election. The teabaggers have forgotten that moderates decide elections. They ran on patriotic platitudes – but to get reelected, they will have to deliver.

    If & after moderate voters get a good look at this they will want to vomit.

  9. What’s with this “Within living memory, it was common, at least in rural areas, for girls to marry and start having children in early puberty” bullshit?

    So what?

    There are lots of things that were common within living memory that we as a society find reprehensible and reject.

    Within living memory it was common in many areas to make black people use the back door, and many more heinous violations. Does that make it more acceptable to do it now?

    Within living memory it was common all across the country to deny women employment because they should stay home and care for the house and kids.

    Within living memory it was common to hear doctors tell you that cigarettes were good for improving some medical conditions, because they relaxed you.

    Shall we start deciding policy based on the stupid shit we used to think was somehow OK? What nonsense!

    Dress it up however you like, what he’s really saying is, “we used to like to keep ’em young, barefoot and pregnant, and what was so wrong with that?”

  10. That is, if one believes a fetus at a given stage of development is a human life worthy of protection by law, the events leading to the pregnancy are irrelevant.

    That’s true. And this is one of the key problems with the abortion debate. A similar fiction was exposed when abortion protesters were asking how much jail time a woman should receive for having an abortion.

    People *don’t* really think of an early-developing fetus is a full person. But for some reason, it’s horrible and shrill to dare question a person’s “sincerely held beliefs”.

    People get away with calling abortion “murder” when they clearly do not believe it is murder.

    Some times, I think that this was the original game with the right wing, the first time when they realized they could control the discussion. They can call abortion murder, and even if someone kills an abortion provider (name me one right-winger who doesn’t support the killing of a murderer to prevent further killing!), they can insist that, oh, no, they *abhor* violence, and then go right back to calling abortion murder again, and no one calls them on the contradiction.

  11. LongHariedWeirdo,
    Good point. If abortion is murder as they claim, and as they seem to want to eventually get laws to that effect, then the doctor/choice provider is a murderer, and should be charged, and if convicted, sentenced to jail. OK, this is what they think today. But then, why isn’t the woman charged as an accessory to murder?
    The guy who walks in and, while robbing the bank, kills a few people, is clearly guilty of murder. But they also charge the driver of the get-away vehicle as an accessory to murder, even if the poor shlub didn’t know the guy walking in had a gun. Hell, they charge him even if he just thought he was driving his friend to make a deposit. Well, if the doctor is like the shooter, then the woman isn’t an innocent victim like the bank that was robbed, no, she provided the ‘vehicle’ for that murder.
    Ah, but this is where they stop. If they started locking up every woman up who had an abortion, we’d quickly run out of prison cells for real criminals, and the religious right never takes the argument to this natural conclusion – that if abortion is made into murder, then the woman is the accessory, and should also be charged.
    Now I wonder why it is that they never mention that?

    • Now I wonder why it is that they never mention that?

      The Fetus People seem to think of the women as unwitting victims of the Evil Abortion Industry who shouldn’t be charged, even though they simultaneously seem to think that women who get abortions are callous and selfish. That would go along with their fiction that they want to criminalize abortion because it’s bad for women’s health, causing insanity and breast cancer and whatever other fantasies they’ve cranked out over the years. The idea that women are incapable of making sensible decisions for themselves (and require a patriarchy to make decisions for them) is fundamental to their worldview.

      My understanding is that before Roe v. Wade, women could be prosecuted for obtaining an abortion but rarely were. Instead, they were given immunity if they ratted out the provider. In other nations that have criminalized abortion, women are routinely imprisoned for it, however.

  12. And of course this will eventualy lead to the next logical (to them) step: ending birth control. Mark my words.

  13. “In other nations that have criminalized abortion, women are routinely imprisoned for it, however.”
    Maybe what we need to be doing as we continue to fight for choice, is bring this up. That if Republicans are successful in outlawing abortion, one of the consequences should be imprisonment for any woman getting, or even seeking, an abortion. Because, whether you murdered your spouse or not, if you seek someone’s help to kill them, the spouse is punished along with the person hired to do the killing – unless, obviously, it’s a sting operation. And if Republicans do not go for punishing everybody, then maybe the Democrats need to point out that inconsistancy, and insist that the Republicans follow through to the natural conclusion of their argument. EVERYONE involved must be punishable under the law. The husband, too, if the drove the car. That might get people’s attention.

    I’m still not saying this well. If they insist on making abortion murder, then it must be pointed out that ALL of the people involved should be punished. By charging the doctor, and letting the woman go free, it eliminates some skin that ALL women should have in this game.
    My point isn’t to make this country like some of the hyper-Catholic ones, where even that 12 year-old and her mother were kicked out of the church and damn near charged with murder, it’s the opposite. It’s to make people, women in particular, think of the consequences if the conservatives succeed in outlawing choice. If you point out that a murder charge is one of the consequences and ramifications, then maybe some of the younger people who are not as adament about choice as those of us who remember a world pre-Roe, will treasure what they have more and want to keep it, and make sure it’s available to everyone equally. Too many of today’s younger folks aren’t as hard-core about choice as we are. I remember you wrote a post about that not too many years ago, showing statistics.
    If I’m not explaining myself well, I’m sorry. It’s difficult for me to make my point clearly. But I think you get the idea of what I’m talking about.

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