29 January 2011 2 Comments
“Evil” is not a term I use lightly. Maybe that’s a flaw of mine, but that’s the case. It feels too absolute, too loaded; people often use the term to justify any atrocities they decide to commit against said “evil”–see “Evil, Axis of”–, and so I’m uncomfortable using the term.
Not today. From the article House Republicans aim to redefine rape to limit abortion coverage:
Currently, the federal government denies taxpayer monies to be used to pay for abortions, except in cases when pregnancies result from rape or incest or when the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life.
However, if the 173 mainly Republican co-sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” have their way, that would all change. Instead of keeping the 30-year-old definition of rape in federal law, the bill would modify it to “forcible rape,” thereby severely limiting the health care choices of millions of American women and their families.
In other words, rape would not be rape unless violence were involved; however, the term “forcible rape” was left undefined, leading some to speculate its meaning since it is also not defined in the federal criminal code or in some state laws.
“This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible,” Nick Baumann of Mother Jones wrote recently.
He continued, “For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.”
This right here? Evil. The people behind it may try to justify it as a cost-saving measure, as an attack on immorality, or simply giving their constituents what they want, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. It. Is. Evil.
Now, the things I don’t know about rape, rape culture, and how it’s intertwined with sexism could fill Wikipedia—partly because as a middle-class, non-minority male, I have the societal privilege of not really having to worry about it much unless it happens to affect people in my immediate circle. Oh, sure, I was aware that it was a horrible thing that I didn’ t wish on people, but it was the sort of awareness that one can stuff in a drawer and then forget about like a birthday card, on an issue that I felt could be traded away for a gain on some issue which mattered more to me. Until a few weeks ago, I would have looked at this article and not felt much of anything beyond mild annoyance. Now, I just want to travel back in time and punch past me for ever being that stupid.
What changed? Well, thanks some urging by some very awesome people, I’ve begun doing some reading, which has had the effect of turning rape from Something That Happened to Other People Who I Don’t Really Care About to something that is ever-present, constant, and damaging in some very specific (yet very different) ways. Similarly, I’ve begun to scratch the surface when it comes to deeper understanding of the myriad ways society screws women and anything that can be consider “other” over.
And this bill? Majorly screws women over. Looking over Shakesville’s survivor thread, one can read countless stories from people who have been molested, raped, or sexually taken advantage from. Very few of the experiences recounted there would qualify as “forcible rape”, and even if they did, good luck proving that in court. That does not make any of their experiences any less horrible or scarring. Yet here’s this bill, discounting their experience. What happened to them? Not rape. Just some other, unspecified event that doesn’t inspire the visceral response of the word “rape” and can be shoved under the carpet. Bullshit. Unacceptable. This is fifty percent of the population we’re talking about, who already face severe disadvantages simply because sexism is the norm in most world cultures. Thinking of their rights, their safety and their livelihoods as something that can just be legislated away is monstrous, and the fact that 173 of the people who think that way are also the same people actually writing our laws is tragic and infuriating.
So what can one do? Given that giving congressmen a taste of their own medicine is impossible (oh, but wouldn’t it be satisfying?), the best I can really ask for is this: Become aware. Become pissed. Explain to your friends why this is unacceptable, and why everyone, not just women, need to expect better, and why culture needs to change in a manner that would make simply suggesting making laws like this political and social suicide. Because the moment 173 of our lawmen start supporting laws that harm half our population, we’ve lost all pretense that government is here for our benefit. And that right there? Scares the shit out of me.