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#DearJohn: There’s a Bigger Problem Than H.R. 3

There's been a flurry of stories today about the House GOP decision to drop the term "forcible rape" from the House Resolution 3, a bill that would prohibit taxpayer subsidies from funding health care plans that offer abortion. H.R. 3 would also codify the Hyde Amendment — a bit of legislation that has been renewed every year for the last 30 years — converting it to law from its current status as a rider that has to be attached to an appropriations bill annually. But we'll get back to that.

An earlier version of H.R. 3 said that women who become pregnant after "forcible rape" are exempted from the restrictions. But this touched off a firestorm where liberals accused the GOP of attempting to "redefine rape." The #dearjohn ("John" being House Speaker John Boehner) Twitter and blog campaign was used by activists who insist — correctly — that rape is nonconsensual sex, and that redefining the term so that it's limited to violent rape (and not acknowledging the role that drugs, alcohol, and date rape often play) is wrong. Getting Republicans to cut the "forcible" from the rape provision seems like a win.

But the problem with H.R. 3 is not really H.R. 3. The problem is Hyde.

The Hyde Amendment was introduced in 1976 to prevent poor women from using Medicaid to pay for abortions. That's it. It was created to restrict a disadvantaged segment of the population from accessing a legal medical procedure. It simply cannot be overstated how bad for women Hyde is. But as Digby notes, people who are focusing on the language and restrictions of H.R. 3 are missing the point; Hyde is an "unconscionable exception" to the laws of the land. Yet it has the support of President Barack Obama, who considers it "status quo."

H.R. 3 is just a slightly worse version of what we've already accepted.

Shani is the associate editor of You can reach her at

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