When HR3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, started getting attention, I was initially pretty excited. But over and over when I read about it, I was dismayed to find media focusing on one piece – a sentence about redefining rape, saying that an abortion could be federally funded only if a woman had survived a “forcible rape.” Let me get this out there right away: this language is revolting, sexist, and absolutely, bottom-line unacceptable. There are many others who have written very articulately about why this is, and I don’t think I need to go into it; it is disgusting and unacceptable, period. People were angry, and rightfully so; they protested the language. What made me upset about focusing on this language is that it mostly ignored the fact that it was just a shitty sentence in a steaming pile of shit of a bill. Yes, redefining rape is egregious and wrong, but isn’t also denying low-income women basic health care?

The media’s focus on this particular language made me upset because this entire media frenzy regarding the redefining of rape is indicative of classism and racism. It ignored the fact that, even without this re-definition, getting an abortion covered by Medicaid for a pregnancy that was the result of rape – any sort of rape – is currently nearly impossible; it ignores the fact that not allowing federal funding for abortion essentially strips low-income women of their right to an easy, legal, basic health procedure. Yes, redefining rape is beyond atrocious, but when we focus on this language are we really seeing the whole picture?  While people of all backgrounds can be and are victims of sexual violence, only poor women – disproportionately women of color – will ever be denied Medicaid coverage of their abortion; it’s not a coincidence which got media attention.

Since the media blitz on HR3, the language that would have redefined rape was removed, but to what effect? We are left with a bill that will continue to deny women basic coverage, expanding prohibitions currently for low-income women into the tax code, and a Congress that can now say that they have compromised to make this a reasonable bill. Some say that HR3 is “just” codifying the status quo; others say that it is far more that “just” the status quo. But let’s be clear: the status quo is not ok. Creating a differential system of access to abortion for low-income women was as wack in 1976 as it is now, and referring to “just” the status quo ignores a very major problem.

My goal here is not to point fingers; I understand the outrage around the “forcible rape” language. But it’s hard to watch an entirely fucked up bill get so much attention without calling out the obvious: that our politicians are so deluded, so unaware about the realities of women in this country, that they are focusing their efforts to get the economy back on track on denying women control over their own reproductive lives. It’s hard to watch a bill about public funding for abortion get so much press only to hear so few voices reminding us that denying public funding for abortion is fucked up, creates a differential system of access for low-income women, and disproportionately affects women of color.

In 1977, Rosie Jimenez – a college student on Medicaid – was the first person who died because of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion the year before. Even though abortion had become legal in 1973, because Medicaid did not cover it and she could not afford the full cost of the procedure, she went to an unlicensed provider. When we talk about the status quo, we have to remember Rosie, and the hundreds of thousands of women who have since been denied access to the procedure because of Hyde ever since. History is important, y’all; let’s not forget what this is all about. The status quo is NOT OK.

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