Rape is Rape…Unless It’s Politics

A picture of Gov. Susana Martinez made the Huffington Post home page this morning, under the headline “‘Forcible Rape’ Language is Back.” 

It appears New Mexico is now officially part of the fundamentalist right-wing effort to redefine rape that would leave many thousands of rape victims vulnerable and ineligible for state support,” wrote Jodi Jacobson of , a publication devoted to preserving reproductive rights. 

The news is an amendment to New Mexico’s child care assistance policy, exempting victims of “forcible rape” from having to file child support claims against the absent parent, the Huffington Post says. Current policy says anyone applying for state child care assistance is required to also file for child support. This amendment will say they don’t have to do that if the child “was conceived as a result of incest or forcible rape.” 

Take out the word “forcible,” and you’ve got a good policy. Here’s the problem with having that adjective, again from Huffington Post: “(I)f the amendment passes, a woman whose rape is not ruled ‘forcible,’ such as a young victim of statutory rape, would be forced to contact her rapist for child support in order to receive any state assistance.” 

Case workers, then, are having to determine whether a girl’s rape is “forcible” or not. That will be awkward, at least. 

From Jacobson: “If adopted, this policy will have numerous implications. It establishes in state law a narrow definition of rape that can and will be applied in other areas of law and policy. It puts a heavy burden on women who have been raped and are now struggling economically to support a child or children to prove the ‘manner’ in which they were raped and to meet a test set up by the state to exclude many women in need of childcare assistance who would otherwise qualify.” 

That’s sick. I highly recommend everyone read the entire Jacobson post, which also delves into the history of these definitions and frames the “forcible” debate as “a strategy to further undermine access to safe abortion and to stigmatize women.”

Martinez is seemingly standing by this, possibly under direct orders from Republican Establishment overlords. In a statement, the group Strong Families, which advocates for women and immigrants, said “The attempt to qualify differing levels of rape is especially egregious coming from the nation’s first Latina governor, a former tough prosecutor from southern New Mexico, and a prominent speaker at the Republican national convention. Leaders want to emphasize that rape is rape, period.”

Unless you’re a politician. 

Anyone who expected better from Martinez hasn’t been paying attention. For one, she has embraced a “top advisor” and political fundraiser, Jay McCleskey, who was charged with battery after leaving an Albuquerque woman with bruises, according to police reports. Martinez also oversaw the dismissal of a top state health official, Erin Bouquin, who said she was told “You are being dismissed because you haven’t met the expectations o the governor.” Bouquin’s offense was a TV interview in which she encouraged sexually active teens to use condoms. 

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department is holding a public hearing on the “forcible” amendment on Oct. 1. It will be interesting to hear from either side of this strange debate. 

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