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'Rape' remarks become issue in Utah's 1st District

Published August 21, 2012 2:55 pm

Politics • He says Donna McAleer has her facts wrong; she replies that he was a co-sponsor of a bill with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

National controversy created by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., saying that women's bodies are able to prevent pregnancies in a "legitimate rape" has become an issue in Utah's 1st Congressional District race.

Democrat Donna McAleer is attacking Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, for joining with Akin and others in a bill that she says once tried to redefine rape and exclude victims of statutory rape and incest from taxpayer-funded abortions.

Bishop says she has her facts wrong and the bill did none of that.

McAleer wrote a blog post condemning Akin's statement — which also has been denounced by President Barack Obama and Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney — and then went after Bishop.

"I was appalled to find out that Rob Bishop was one of the original co-sponsors of Todd Akin's bill HR3 in January 2012 which sought to redefine rape," McAleer wrote. "In the original language for HR3, only victims of 'forcible rape' would qualify for federally funded abortions. This would leave out funding for victims of statutory rape, incest and any other rape that doesn't include overt violence."

But Akin did not introduce the bill — Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., did in January 2011, not 2012. McAleer corrected those errors online after they were pointed out by The Salt Lake Tribune. Akin, Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, are among 227 co-sponsors of the bill.

McAleer's blog added, "What I would like to know is whether Congressman Bishop still stands behind a limited definition of rape that would exclude a grown man having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The mothers and daughters of Utah — not to mention their husbands, fathers and brothers — deserve better than what they've been getting from their congressman."

"There's a lot wrong with what she said," Bishop responded. "It's not an Akin bill. It's a bipartisan bill." It passed the House 251-175 with support from even Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah but likely will not be brought up in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

"It did not redefine rape," Bishop said. "It always allowed for the rape, incest and life of the mother to be exclusions" to a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions. "But the bottom line is this is a bill saying there shouldn't be tax dollars going for elective abortions."

He acknowledges that the words "forcible rape" were in the original bill and later removed. But "If you read the next couple paragraphs past that, it was clear that any kind of rape, incest or the life of the mother would be an exception."

McAleer said about Bishop's response, "The fact remains that Rob Bishop was an original co-sponsor of HR3 with Rep. Akin that included a 'forcible rape' definition. Now Rob Bishop is trying to parse his parsing with a bunch of Washington talk. ... You're either against rape or you want to play politics with it."

Bishop also condemned statements by Akin, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, and who said in a TV interview that few women become pregnant through rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has way to shut that whole thing down," he said.

Bishop said, "Sometimes people who are good, and he is a very good person, say things that are just wrong. ... His words were sad. And they seem to me out of character of the individual. But there is no way of defending what he said."

McAleer said in her blog about Akin's comments, "This type of language is offensive to all citizens and especially women. It shows a clear lack of empathy and understanding of rape and its effect on the lives of victims across the country."

ldavidson@sltrib.com