Anti-abortion advocates are finally starting to open up about the controversial abortion law that’s working its way through the House. To critics that noted the law’s “forcible rape” language would deny abortion coverage to statutory rape victims they say this: you’re right, it wouldn’t.
But anti-abortion advocates claim that the change in the language of federal law would not actually constitute a chance in policy.
In an interview with the anti-abortion site LifeNews, Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, admits the language in the House’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “would not allow general federal funding of abortion on all under-age pregnant girls.”
But Johnson said that new language regarding rape would just codify existing practices when it comes to abortion coverage under Medicaid. Such coverage is strictly banned by the Hyde Amendment, though exceptions are made for rape, incest and the life or health of the mother.
“We do not believe that the Hyde Amendment has ever been construed to permit federal funding of abortion based merely on the youth of the mother (‘statutory rape’), nor are we aware of evidence that federal funding of abortion in such cases has ever been the practice,” Johnson told LifeNews. He did not provide any evidence that statutory rape victims are denied abortion coverage as a matter of government policy. Notably, some anti-abortion groups, like LiveAction, use potential or alleged violations of statutory rape laws and reporting requirements to criticize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Johnson’s understanding of the Hyde Amendment.
Here’s the full exception clauses to the Hyde Amendment, as posted by the National Right To Life Committee:
SEC. 508. (a) The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to an abortion—
(1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or
(2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.
As Johnson notes, adding “forcible” to the definition of rape, as it currently written, would be a change in law and it would eliminate the possibility of Medicaid abortion coverage for some young women. But he argues that the real change in policy is coming from abortion opponents who are attempting to use the “forcible” rape issue to attack the House bill — and force the government to pay for more abortions.
“In falsely claiming that it is a change in policy, the pro-abortion advocacy groups really are engaged in a brazen effort greatly expand federal funding for abortion,” Johnson told the site. “They want to federally fund the abortion of tens of thousands of healthy babies of healthy moms, based solely on the age of their mothers.”
Johnson’s group was one of the many anti-abortion organizations who declined to comment to TPM about the law after numerous attempts.