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Over in the Twitterverse, the #DearJohn hashtag has been rolling merrily for about a week now. #DearJohn, aimed at Speaker of the House John Boehner (@johnboehner or @SpeakerBoehner), is a digital protest campaign along the lines of #MooreandMe. Its purpose? To protest Boehner’s support of H.R. 3 or the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” the House bill that tries to kill legal abortion by squeezing it to death.
By far the most objectionable part of the original H.R. 3 text was the part that attempted to limit Medicare coverage for abortions to abortions sought as the result of “forcible” rape only. Federal abortion funding laws already limit abortion payments to those sought after rape, incest, or in the case of an imminent physical threat to the life of the mother.
The “forcible rape” requirement was, and is, frankly appalling. Not only does it deny a safe, legal abortion to some 70 percent of the nation’s poorest rape survivors, it also does so on the basis that “some guy in Washington thinks your rape isn’t bad enough to deserve medical care.” If it is not “rape rape,” then you’re carrying that sucker to term – like it or not.
After several days of digital activism spearheaded by Tiger Beatdown’s inimitable Sady Doyle, including an online petition and the Daily Show’s Kristen Schall hilariously clarifying the problem, H.R. 3 originator Chris Smith (R-NJ) and the bill’s other hundred-plus supporters removed the “forcible rape” language from the bill, thinking of course that we’d give up and all go back to playing on the swings and standing in line at the unemployment office.
They are, of course, wrong. Because, while the “forcible rape” language was perhaps the most jaw-dropping in the bill, every last jot of H.R. 3 is an assault on the rights and needs of rape survivors. Language left in the bill also seeks to limit abortion coverage in private health insurance plans by denying federal funds to both private insurers who sell the plans and to businesses that make the plans available for their employees.
Dear John: I am a small private business owner. My business purchases health insurance for its employees from a private insurance company. We are all rational adults capable of making a private contract without your assistance. Whatever happened to your “small government”?
In addition, dear John, where do you get off moaning about “job-killing” taxes, yet threatening to raise our private health insurance plan rates by denying federal assistance for them in the same breath? Because here’s the thing: if the price of our insurance gets high enough, I will either have to cut everyone’s benefits, or I will have to cut one or more employees. You are neither creating jobs nor maintaining high-quality jobs. Knock it off.
Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t seem to get it either. The DCCC, along with Change.org, recently posted a petition to its own website asking supporters to “Tell Speaker Boehner to Drop Republicans’ Plan to Redefine Rape.” All well and good. But the Dems are completely silent on the fact that H.R. 3 isn’t merely a “Republican” plan. Rather, there are nine Democrats – NINE – signed on as co-sponsors to the bill. On this, the Democrats are completely silent.
Getting rid of the “forcible rape” language was a great start. But we’re still paddling uphill. This entire bill hurts the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable women and girls. It deprives them of choice at the moment when they most need to feel in control of their own lives. And it wastes time and money poking its nose into private business contracts – whether or not the parties will ever actually use or pay for an abortion.
Hop on Twitter, sign the petition, and tell the Republicans and Democrats alike that we are perfectly capable of making our own medical decisions, thank you.