Many Democratic speakers, including Sandra Fluke, charged this week that Paul Ryan tried to “redefine rape.” This line of attack stems from Republican legislation that included the term “forcible rape.” As an example of the liberal critique of this legislation, here’s Nick Baumann at Mother Jones: “Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.”
But here’s a serious problem with this line of attack: the term “forcible rape” wasn’t invented by Republican pro-lifers.
For instance, the Democratic House and Democratic Senate in 1994 passed, and Democratic President Bill Clinton signed a crime bill that included a line “The term ‘part 1 violent crimes’ means murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape…”
Also, in 1990, the Democratic Congress passed the “Hate Crimes Statistics Act” — with Ted Kennedy and Barbara Mikulski among the 60 co-sponsors — which required statistics be kept on bias-motivated “crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape…”
Was Barbara Mikulski redefining rape? Did Bill Clinton “redefine rape.”
The word shows up in many parts of criminal codes in the U.S. When the District of Columbia passed a hate-crimes law, it distinguished “forcible rape” from other rapes.
Look at California’s official crime statistics — they have a category for forcible rape.
You may think distinctions between “forcible rape” and statutory rape are bad policy, but you can’t claim that Paul Ryan, Todd Akin, or any other current Republican lawmaker invented the term in an effort to “redefine rape.” “Forcible Rape” is already part of our federal criminal code, for better or worse.
Democrats make that charge from the podium, but politicians say a lot of things.