From NBC's Shawna Thomas
In the last two weeks, there's been a slowly bubbling uproar over H.R. 3, legislation to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill seeks to eliminate the need to keep passing the Hyde Amendment, the current language that bans the use of federal funds for abortion, by codifying the ban into permanent law.
The controversy: Multiple human rights groups have said the exception clause in the bill seems to redefine "rape" -- therefore making it more difficult, perhaps illegal, for women who are subject of rape or incest who rely on government funding for health care to obtain an abortion.
SEC. 309. TREATMENT OF ABORTIONS RELATED TO RAPE, INCEST, OR PRESERVING THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER.
The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion--
(1) if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest; or
(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself
At issue is the term "forcible rape," which according to one reproductive-rights lawyer has no definition in federal code and appears to be a step backwards in how sexual assault is defined in the country. Also at issue is limiting the incest exception to minors.
Today, Smith's office confirmed it is rewriting the exception clause to match the language in the Hyde Amendment, which states:
SEC. 508. (a) The limitation 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.