House abortion bill redefines rape, incest exceptions

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

A bill to limit federal funding of abortions is redefining rape and incest, writes Nick Baumann at Mother Jones magazine.

Federal funding is only allowed to pay for abortions in the case of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is endangered. But a new bill with 173 co-sponsors would further limit federally funded exceptions, only allowing Medicaid to pay for abortions in the case of "forcible rape."

Forcible rape has no formal definition under federal law, Baumann notes, but legal experts and abortion advocates told him that the new wording would most likely prevent Medicaid from paying for abortions for victims of statutory rapes not involving the use of force. Baumann's sources also told him that the revised wording might also disallow funding of abortions in cases where perpetrators used date-rape drugs on their victims, or targeted mentally incapacitated women.

Some states have no definition of forcible rape on the books, calling into question whether any abortions would qualify for federalfunding in such jurisdictions.  Incest victims would have to be younger than 18 in order to access Medicaid-funded abortions. The bill also denies tax credits to private insurance plans that pay for abortions.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has called the bill a high priority, but it seems unlikely that the Democratic-controlled Senate would approve the law. President Obama could also veto the legislation if it made it to his desk.

We've reached out to spokesmen for GOP Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Illinois Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski, who are the lead co-sponsors of the bill, to see if the lawmakers agree that "forcible rape" would exclude these types of rapes. We'll update the post when they get back to us.

UPDATE: Lipinski tells The Lookout the bill is not intended to change existing rape exception for Medicaid-funded abortions.

(An anti-abortion rally in New Jersey this week, one of many to protest the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: AP.)