Bill Would Strip Benefits From Children Born Poor—Unless Mom Was Raped, Reported the Crime and Can Prove it Happened
There are some bills coming out of Harrisburg that often fly under the radar. Some of them are more vile than others. Like this one: House Bill 2718, which national politics blog Think Progress brought to our attention yesterday. The bill would attempt to limit the amount of assistance women receive from the Temporary Assistance to Need Families Program “based on the amount of children they give birth to while covered under the program,” Think Progress notes.
Sounds a little odd, right? It gets worse. Like many bills, the language is presumably intentionally confusing, with sentences more than 100 words long and phrases like “the department shall revise the schedule of benefits to be paid to the recipient family by eliminating the increment in benefits under the program for which that family would otherwise be eligible as a result of the birth of a child conceived during the period in which the family is eligible for benefits…”
But what it boils down to is this: The state lawmakers who introduced the bill would try to keep monetary benefits away from newborn children of poor mothers. (The bill was introduced by Reps. RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon), Tom Caltagirone (D-Reading), Mark Gillen (R-Reading), Keith Gillespie (R-York), Adam Harris (R-Mifflin) and Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill).)
The legislation also seeks to make an exception for women who have children as a result of rape (this seems to be a common theme with Republicans, no?) but only if the woman in question can prove she was raped and reported it at the time. Seriously. According to the bill, the pregnant rape victim is eligible for benefits if she provides “a non-notarized, signed statement … stating that she was a victim of rape or incest, as the case may be, and that she reported the crime, including the identity of the offender, if known, to a law enforcement agency having the requisite jurisdiction.”
And don’t you ladies go on trying to cry rape for free money, because the legislation has that covered. If you lie about being raped for free cash, you will pay.
“The Commonwealth agency shall report any evidence of false statements or of fraud in the procurement or attempted procurement of any payment from Federal of State funds appropriated by the Commonwealth pursuant to this subsection to the district attorney of appropriate jurisdiction,” reads the bill, “and, where appropriate, to the Attorney General.”
So, to recap: 1. Pennsylvania lawmakers want to limit funds to the newborn children of poor women. 2. They’re willing to give exceptions to those children if they’re a product of rape, so long as their mother reported the crime (though about half of all sexual assaults are not reported, often due to repercussions from their abusers). And 3. If the mother claims she is raped but cannot prove it to the state, she gets reported to the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Ready to revolt? It might not be time, just yet. The Pennsyltucky-supported legislation was referred to the Committee on Human Services on October 17th and was not sent to the the full Assembly, nor did it even come up for a vote. But this is Pennsylvania, where any piece of furious wingnut legislation is possible! So stay tuned. This post will be updated as needed.
UPDATE: Well, that’s weird. Three of the bill’s six sponsors are bailing. The Democrat, Tom Caltagirone, says his name was placed on the bill in the first place as a mistake.