No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

Roy SpeckhardtThe "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" continues to incense many Americans. Until recently, the bill's provisions went as far as to define nonconsensual sex in the shamefully narrow language of "forcible rape." Fortunately, many voices are being raised in outrage against such affronts to women's rights, human dignity, and the legislative process.

Yet a dimension of the issue remains unexplored. While sponsors frame the issue as the will of the people, what is not discussed is its biblical inspiration, which threatens the First Amendment principle of separation between church and state. Despite its eventual reverted language, the bill is still saturated with religious intention that is both sectarian and misogynistic.

The "forcible rape" language was replaced with language from the Hyde Amendment, which limits the federal funds provided for abortion to specific scenarios, and is a perennial rider attached to bills providing federal funds for family planning services. It was first proposed shortly after the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Henry Hyde, the Amendment's author and namesake, was a prominent anti-choice zealot in Congress. He believed his Amendment was part of a divinely inspired crusade: "God put us in the world to do noble things, to love and to cherish our fellow human beings, not to destroy them," he said on the floor of the House of Representatives during the debate on the so-called "partial birth abortion ban."

Author of the bill, Chris Smith (R-NJ) would have us believe that this bill was introduced to protect women. In his introduction to the bill, he states "[t]he ugly truth is that women are victimized by abortion—wounded and hurt physically and emotionally." While calling women victims to an "abortion holocaust," he sees salvation as he urges women to accept "the breathtaking love, healing, and reconciliation that God provides to those who ask." Smith, who is Catholic, sees himself as a modern missionary bringing deliverance to America by law.

But it's not just Smith.

Michele Bachmann (R-MN), one of the bill's prominent co-sponsors, addressed the anti-choice March For Life's Rose Dinner in January: "Don't think that sidewalk counseling, praying for someone, stroking out a check, being on your knees . . . don't ever think that it is a waste. You pour out, pour it out with the most liberal offering that you can give to the savior." The "sidewalk counseling" in Bachmann's speech refers to the well-known practice of pro-life activist protesting outside family planning facilities equipped with stomach-churning signs and biblical proclamations designed to frighten and intimidate those at their most vulnerable.

The religious intentions of the bill's supporters are clear. The foundation of it is rooted in misogynistic teachings that intend not to help women, but criminalize them. Smith, who is on record a supporter of a constitutional amendment criminalizing abortion in every case, undoubtedly draws his inspiration from the Bible.

In Deuteronomy, a term like "marital rape" would not exist:

If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her (Dt. 22:28-29).

Likewise, any rape is the fault of the woman:

If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife (Dt. 22:23-24).

The original bill reflects these passages. Both show plain contempt for women. Both are attempts to control women's action. The sponsors of the bills are motivated by such beliefs that are repeated not only in Deuteronomy, but throughout most Christian scripture. One only needs to turn to Paul's first letter to Timothy:

Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (1 Tim. 2:11-14).

2/14/2011 5:00:00 AM
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    About Roy Speckhardt
    Roy Speckhardt is the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association. He is also a board member of the organization providing Humanists leadership training, the Humanist Institute, and an advisory board member of Secular Student Alliance. Follow him at