Pennsylvania Bill Requires Women to Prove Rape to Qualify for Additional Welfare Assistance for Newborns

A new bill in the Pennsylvania House proposes limiting the financial assistance provided to low-income women who give birth to children while covered by the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, reported Think Progress.

Pennsylvania lawmakers—including State Reps. RoseMarie Swanger (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), Keith Gillespie (R), Adam Harris (R) and Mike Tobash (R)—don’t want to increase the amount of welfare money these women receive to care for their newborns. But there is one exception: If the child was conceived due to rape and the woman reported her sexual assault to the police, the mother can obtain additional assistance.

The bill states:

In determining the amount of assistance payments to a recipient family of benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program, 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 under the TANF Program. […]

Elimination of benefits under subsection (d) shall not apply to any child conceived as a result of rape or incest if the department: (1) receives a non-notarized, signed statement from the pregnant woman 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 or, in the case of incest where a pregnant minor is the victim, to the county child protective service agency and stating the name of the law enforcement agency or child protective service agency to which the report was made and the date such report was made.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an estimated 54 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police. This can be attributed to a myriad of reasons, among them: shame, fear of blame, fear of retaliation from the rapist or a repeat of the act, and emotional damage that causes the victim to act in irrational ways.

But rather than considering potential challenges that made it difficult or dangerous for these women to report their sexual assault, the Pennsylvania lawmakers want to make sure the women know that “false reports to law enforcement authorities are punishable by law,” and that the state will report any “evidence of false statements or fraud,” reported Jezebel.

The proposed bill “perpetrates a dangerous attitude toward survivors of sexual assault,” Think Progress states.

Rape, abortion and women’s rights have been hot topics this election season, with several Republicans voicing extreme views on the topics. In August, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin said that women do not get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) quickly came to his defense, saying he’s never heard of a person being impregnated from statutory rape or incest. And more recently, on October 23, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock introduced the concept of “divine rape”, calling pregnancy from rape a “gift from God.”

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