February 3, 2011 — House Republicans plan to remove the inclusion of the term "forcible" in the language of a bill (HR 3) that would ban coverage for abortion except in cases of rape, incest with a minor and danger to a woman's life, hoping to "sidestep a potentially contentious fight" over the definition of rape, Politico reports (Allen, Politico, 2/3). As introduced, the bill, titled the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, would impose tax penalties on individuals and small businesses whose health plans cover abortion, codify current restrictions on abortion funding in federal law including the Hyde Amendment -- a provision approved annually in the appropriations legislation since 1976 that prohibits federal funding for abortion care except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is threatened by continuing a pregnancy -- and narrow the incest exception to incest with a minor and the rape exception for abortion coverage to cases of "forcible rape." Women's groups and abortion rights advocates say the term "forcible " makes a distinction between sexual assault with an element of violence and other types of rape, such as attacks that occur in cases of statutory rape or because of drugs or verbal threats and narrows the exception for rape allowed under current federal restrictions on abortion coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/1).
Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said the wording in the bill has been "misconstrued," Fox News reports. "The use of the term 'forcible' was not intended to change the meaning of the time-tested protections and exceptions currently contained in the Hyde amendment," he said in a written statement, adding, "To avoid any confusion and to expedite the effort to permanently prevent taxpayers from being complicit in abortion and abortion coverage, we are restoring the text to reflect the exceptions for rape and incest included in the Hyde amendment" (Fox News, 2/2). According to Jeff Sagnip, Smith's spokesperson, "The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment" (Politico, 2/3).