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'Forcible rape' cut from antiabortion bill after backlash from women's groups

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 10:25 PM

Republican lawmakers have removed the term "forcible rape" from an antiabortion bill in Congress after women's groups accused them of trying to change the widely held definition of rape.

The bill, called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, seeks to permanently bar federal funds from being used to subsidize abortions. It allows exceptions in cases in which the pregnancy resulted from incest or when the life of the mother would be threatened if the fetus was carried to term.

In the original language, it also allowed exceptions in cases of "forcible rape." The term provoked an outcry from critics, who said that rape is by definition committed by force and that lawmakers were seeking to exclude from coverage certain kinds of rape by adding the modifier - for example, cases in which the victim was underage or unconscious.

The bill now would allow exceptions in all cases of rape.

A spokesman for Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), a chief sponsor of the bill, said Thursday that lawmakers decided to change the term because it was being "misconstrued."

sandhya@washpost.com

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