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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Right Going from Denying Rape's Importance to Denying it Even Exists

Women demonstrate against rape
It's hard to see House Republicans move yesterday to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks as a serious effort. The bill has no chance of being taken up by the Senate and, even if it was, it would die a well-deserved death under the President's veto pen. The bill was, perhaps ironically, dead from the moment of its conception. Originally, the bill had no exception for the victims of rape and incest -- and why would it? The supposed need for the bill was the contention -- based in nothing even remotely resembling fact -- that a fetus is capable of experiencing pain after 20 weeks. Are the fetuses of the victims of rape and incest immune to this supposed agony?

No, the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was meant to sidestep concerns about the woman seeking the abortion by putting the fetus front and center. The hope was that the people will believe junk science claims about fetal pain and allow legislators to ignore the rights of crime victims. In other words, the reason the bill didn't exempt victims of rape and incest was because that was a big part of the point of the legislation -- to set a precedent for banning abortion regardless of the method of conception.

And to get people used to the idea that maybe denying abortion rights to the victims of sexual violence wasn't so bad.

But then the bill's sponsor, Trent Franks, decided the time was ripe for some idiotic rape theorizing. This went over as well as these things always go over (anti-abortion zealots are shockingly slow learners on this subject) and an exemption for victims of sexual violence was quietly written into the legislation.

And that's where Republicans exposed their dishonesty.

Imagine this all from the perspective of someone who believed every word in the original bill. What you're voting for is a law against torturing babies to death. Assuming that's what you really believed, would you then support an exception to that law? Would you support allowing a woman to torture her baby to death, just because that child was conceived through rape or incest? I'm kind of thinking you would not. Not in a million years. It would be playing politics in an unconscionable way. In writing in an exception for victims of rape and incest, Republicans proved that the rationale behind the bill was just an excuse, that "fetal pain" wasn't something they actually believed in.


Truth be told, the bill existed because the base demanded it. The hardcore anti-abortion-types saw an opportunity to exploit the grisly case of back alley butcher Kermit Gosnell and managed to convince themselves that all of America was as up in arms about it as they were. Speaker John Boehner spilled the beans on that count, when asked if the vote would further erode his party's chances with women.

"No," he answered. "Listen, after this Kermit Gosnell trial and some of the horrific acts that were going on, the vast majority of the American people believe in the substance of this bill and so do I." Like the existence of fetal pain, there's no evidence at all that the American people support this thing. Another Republican with a better grasp on reality said of the vote, "The stupidity is simply staggering."

Somewhere along the line, the Republican Party seems to have decided they always need some demographic to attack. And apparently it's now women. In addition to assaults on abortion rights, they've been incredibly insensitive about the crisis of sexual assault in the military. Saxby Chambliss argued that when men and women are put together, rape is going to happen -- because that's just natural. Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto thinks that this obsessive concern with so-called "rape" is just an "effort to criminalize male sexuality" as part of a "war on men." They've gone from downplaying rape to denying it even exists. In their minds -- or, at least, in their arguments -- rape is just dating.

"I'm of the opinion now... that if you really were to question [Republicans], that there is a sort of continuity of thought that rape is really not so bad and that the likelihood of getting pregnant is small," Rep. Louise Slaughter said yesterday. While her statement is certain to draw a fair amount of victim cards, it's hard to seriously argue that she's not right.

And it's hard to see this new trend of downplaying rape for political purposes -- or denying it even exists -- working out well for the party in the long run. They lost women in a big way in 2012. This is definitely not the way to win them back.


[photo by WeNews]

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