A meme is running amok throughout the left-wing blogosphere: the idea that Republicans want to “redefine rape”. I first saw it in Mother Jones and it’s been in lots of other places, but for the sake of a canonical version, let’s take the version being promulgated in a petition by the Democratic Party. It opens:
Rape is Rape: Tell Speaker Boehner to Drop Republicans’ Plan to Redefine Rape As one of their first acts after taking the majority, House Republicans are proposing to drastically narrow the definition of rape that qualifies women for health care coverage. H.R. 3 would redefine rape in these cases to only include “forcible rape,” a definition that rules out a woman being drugged, children who are victims of statutory rape, and many date rape scenarios.
No matter what Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans want to call it, rape is rape — women should have the right to health care following a rape.
Before we look at how many lies the Democrats were able to pack into a few short sentences, let me briefly explain what this is about: During the health care nationalization debate, Democrats claimed that their bill would not fund abortion because the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion. This was an outright lie; the Hyde Amendment would not (and now does not) apply. House pro-lifers — both Republicans and Democrats — are working to amend the law so that it reads the way that the Democratic leadership pretended it already read.
Rather than copying the language of the Hyde Amendment, the authors of HR 3 changed “rape” to “forcible rape”. They also narrowed the incest exception to cases in which the female is a minor. (This second change has not provoked outrage, presumably because the left does not want to defend taxpayer-funded abortions for pregnancies resulting from consensual incest.)
The “forcible” language has already been dropped, but for my purposes that’s beside the point. I’m looking at the Democrats’ lies, not at what those lies were able to accomplish.
The first point is that HR 3 (even before being altered) did not redefine anything. The whole idea is a vicious lie, intended to imply that rapists would go unpunished because their crimes were being narrowed away. Nothing could be further from the truth. This bill would create a prohibition on federal funding for abortion (something that Democrats like to pretend already exists), but leave an exception for “forcible rape”. The fact that the exception did not use a different word (“rape”) does not somehow constitute a redefinition of the word that wasn’t used. Indeed, if they had been redefining the word, there would have been no need to use a different word!
The second point is that “forcible rape” does not mean what the Democrats are saying it means. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook (p. 19), “forcible rape” is defined as follows:
Forcible Rape—Rape by Force (2a)
Definition: The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. . .
“Against her will” includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity (or because of her youth).
Thus, forcible rape does apply when a woman is drugged. Forcible rape applies to statutory rape when the victim is too young to give consent. “Many date rape scenarios” is awfully vague, but any scenario in which the woman is forced against her will is forcible rape.
In short, the only effect of the word “forcible” is to exclude what might be called statutory rape with consent: sexual relations in which the female is mentally mature enough to give consent, but not old enough to give consent legally. In such cases, HR 3 (before it was revised) would have prohibited a taxpayer-funded abortion.
The third point is the petition never admits that it is talking about abortion. It never uses the word. Instead, it uses the euphemism “health care”. Abortion is not health care. Even if one thinks that abortion is part of health care, the two words are certainly not synonyms. Nothing in this bill would do anything to deny health care to anyone at all.
To summarize: nearly every word in the petition is a lie. HR 3 is not a Republican bill; it is bipartisan. It does not redefine rape. Forcible rape does include women who are drugged, etc. And the bill deals with abortion, not health care.
The irony here is the Democrats are guilty of the accusation they are leveling at Republicans. While Republicans are not redefining rape, Democrats actually are redefining forcible rape. Perhaps I should start a petition.