Women in the United States have a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies. But U.S. House of Representatives Republicans are trying to restrict legal abortion procedures by introducing H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act.” The bill qualifies exemptions to the existing prohibition of taxpayer-funded abortions while making the ban permanent. Though H.R. 3 is unlikely to overcome a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and a presidential veto to become law, it’s a concerning attempt to restrict women’s legal rights. The offensive legislation is a waste of time and should be rejected by Congress as soon as it comes to a vote.
On Jan. 20, Rep. Chris Smith (R–N.J.) introduced H.R. 3, which has the support of Republican leadership and 173 co-sponsors. The bill modifies the provisions of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that prohibits federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of a woman is threatened. Under the proposed legislation, the exception for rape has been changed to an exception for “forcible rape.” The ban on federally funded abortions would also become permanent — the Hyde Amendment would no longer need to be passed yearly as part of the budget.
Lawmakers need to understand that abortion has been a legal medical procedure in the U.S. since Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in 1973. Restricting the procedure would take away from a woman’s right to choose that’s protected by the Constitution. Threatening this right through proposals like H.R. 3 puts citizens on a dangerous path to denying women’s rights. Though steps could be taken to reduce the number of abortions, the approach that House Republicans have taken is wrong and lacks foresight of the potential consequences the bill might have.
Most disturbingly, H.R. 3 threatens the ability of rape victims to undergo an abortion by qualifying the existing exemptions to prohibit federal funding for abortions. The wording for the exception of “rape” has been changed to “forcible rape.” The legislators’ intensions are unclear and, to a degree, alarming — the word rape is defined as sexual intercourse without consent. Arguing semantics with such a serious and sensitive issue insults rape victims and all women. This is the most egregious facet of the bill and is enough reason alone to drop the legislation.
To make matters worse, H.R. 3 is a waste of time, since the legislation has little chance of becoming law. Ironically, this isn’t new to House Republicans, who campaigned during the midterm elections under promises of change and effective governance. Instead, they’ve chosen frill over form, reading the Constitution on the floor of the House and making futile attempts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care bill. Republicans should stop playing rehearsed political games and engage Democrats in substantive policy debates that produce positive outcomes for the American people.
The health and well-being of Americans isn’t something that should be compromised for partisan gain. Congress must resist this offensive campaign against women’s rights.