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Bill to Redefine Rape a Congressional "Bait and Switch?"

February 7, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Women's rights groups are opposing one of the very first bills introduced in the new Congress. It would require any rape to be "forcible rape" in order to qualify for federal funding for abortion if a pregnancy results. Current law provides federal funding for abortions for women on Medicaid in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.

Susan Yolen, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, explains what the new definition would mean.

"Anyone who was raped unknowingly - someone who is mentally ill or was actually not aware and did not fight verbally or physically against their attacker - might not qualify for that funding."

The executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Nancy Neylon, says she's concerned about limiting the definition of rape.

"I'm not even sure what a non-forceable rape would be. I don't think such a thing even exists. This bill seems like something that's not going to be particularly useful to victims or to anybody else."

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

Abortion opponents, such as Right to Life, strongly support the legislation.

Yolen says new members of Congress campaigned on fixing the economy, growing jobs and reducing the deficit, with abortion barely mentioned. She calls the introduction of House Bill 3 a "bait-and-switch" tactic.

"These folks were elected to do something very different than to continue to demonize and limit abortion."

The bill has been introduced into the Republican-controlled House, where a majority of members are anti-abortion, but Yolen expects that such a bill would likely activate President Obama's veto pen if it should reach his desk.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH