Opinion Brief

Why did Republicans drop the 'forcible rape' rule?

Facing a battle over the definition of rape, House Republicans have dropped the word "forcible" from their anti-abortion bill. Why did they back down?

House Republicans have quietly dropped controversial language from a bill restricting the use of federal money to cover abortions. The bill, which aims to make permanent the annually renewed Hyde Amendment ban on taxpayer funding for abortions, would have allowed coverage only in the case of "forcible rape," instead of the broader existing language, "rape and incest." That had critics accusng the GOP of trying to redefine rape. Now the bill's backers have reverted to the original language. Why did they give in? (Watch a discussion about the controversy)

"Forcible rape" was just a tactical "shiny object": Unlike Democrats, "conservatives understand the art of negotiation," says Heather "Digby" Parton in Hullabaloo. So the "heinousness" of the "forcible rape" provision isn't an accident: The language was included for "the express purpose of creating a firestorm," so Republicans could "compromise" with Democrats and still get their awful, far-reaching bill passed.
"Look at the shiny object"

Conservatives gave up nothing: "Forcible" didn't really add or detract anything from the bill, says John McCormack in The Weekly Standard, so it's better to drop the "redundant" word than give "Democrats the opportunity to smear pro-lifers." The Hyde Amendment already bans support for most "statutory rape" abortions, and other types of rape are "committed against that person's will, i.e. forcibly." So who cares if we "simply make explicit" the status quo?"Jon Stewart regurgitates bogus Mother Jones story..."

The bill still has problems: "Forcible rape" was a "red herring," but "there's still plenty of rotten in this pile of fish," says Tommy Christopher in Mediaite. Proponents of the bill argue that its just a continuation of the Hyde Amendment, but it does way more than affect government spending: It also taxes private health plans that cover abortions to the point that they're "poisonous" to employers and individuals. Whether you approve of abortion or not, that's a "clear contravention of the law of the land.""GOP blinks on 'forcible rape,' but bill still cuts deeply at abortion rights"

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