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NOW-Michigan: Bill to Redefine Rape a Congressional "Bait and Switch?"

February 14, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Women's rights groups are opposing one of the first bills introduced in the new Congress. It would require rape to be considered "forcible rape" in order to qualify for federal funding for an abortion, and several Michigan lawmakers support the change. Current law provides federal funding for abortions for women on Medicaid in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.

Renee Beeker, president of the National Organization for Women in Michigan, says that under the proposal, poor women who don't fight their attackers verbally or physically, might not get Medicaid help.

"There is no force, because they're not present: because they are infirmed, because they are young, because they are frightened."

Beeker says new amendments to the bill could also prompt a hospital to refuse life-saving emergency room treatment for a woman on Medicare with complications from a miscarriage. And Beeker is frustrated, saying that new members of Congress campaigned on fixing the economy, growing jobs and reducing the deficit. Instead, she calls this bill a bait-and-switch tactic.

"Their first and foremost thing on their mind is to run in and find a way to strip women of any kind of protection at all? And the most vulnerable women in our country? We're 51 percent of the population."

Current law already excludes all federal employees, women living on Indian reservations, and those in the military and in federal prisons from accessing federal abortion funding.

Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter, Candice Miller, Mike Rogers and Fred Upton are among more than 150 members of Congress who have signed off on the bill.

A second version that does not include the "forcible rape" language has also been introduced.

The bill is House Resolution 3; the second bill is HR 358.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI