Fact Check: Richard Carmona

The issue: Flake’s relation to bills that redefined rape

richard-carmonaWho said it: Richard Carmona, Former U.S. surgeon general.

by Alex Ferri – September 10, 2012, 10:40 pm

What we’re looking at
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, said his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, co-sponsored bills with Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that would have limited taxpayer funding to only cases of “forcible rape” and would have redefined rape.

The comment
“Flake signed on to the bill (HR 3) BEFORE that language (dealing with “forcible rape”) was stripped out, and has supported other bills redefining rape. In fact, Flake and (Rep. Todd) Akin were among a smaller group of original cosponsors who signed onto the bill redefining rape.”

The forum
An Aug. 23, 2012, e-mail.

Akin, also a candidate for U.S. Senate, touched off a national debate on Aug. 19 when, during a television interview, he claimed that cases of “legitimate rape” are less likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex, saying “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Health experts have dismissed the claims as false, and Akin has said he misspoke and apologized.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and others in the party, including Flake, have called for Akin to withdraw from the Senate race. Akin has said he will continue.

In a news release issued by his communications director, Carmona asserted that Flake “tried to hide his past partnership with Missouri Congressman Todd Akin on a bill redefining rape by claiming that the bill he cosponsored did not include the term ‘forcible rape.'”

Akin and Flake, along with other lawmakers, co-sponsored bills that, in their original forms, would have changed the legal definition of rape. One of the bills in question was HR 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which passed the House last year but was never voted on in the Senate.

The second bill was HR 358, also known as the “Protect Life Act.” This bill would have also limited what funds could be used towards abortion. The House passed the bill in October 2011, but the bill was never voted on in the Senate.

The original text of both bills included the term “forcible rape” in the clauses that provided exceptions for abortion. This language differed from that in similar legislation and concerned many Democrats and abortion-rights activists. These groups held that some cases of rape might not be deemed “forcible.”

The word “forcible” was dropped from both bills before they passed the House, but Flake signed on to both on Jan. 20, 2011 — the day each was introduced — as a co-sponsor before the language was removed.

Carmona was correct in saying that Flake signed on to the bill before the language dealing with “forcible rape” was removed, and he did support one other bill, along with Akin, that would have changed the legal definition rape of by adding the word “forcible.”

However, the final versions of both bills did not include such language. Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for Flake, said that Flake co-sponsored the bills despite disagreeing with the “forcible rape” terminology.

“There’s an understanding that you’ll go through a whole amendment process,” he said. “The final product will be something different.”

In both cases, the only amendment to both bills was offered by the House Rules committee, of which Flake was not a member, according to the Library of Congress.

Bottom line: Flake was one of the first co-sponsors of HR 3, he signed on before language dealing with “forcible rape” was removed, and he co-sponsored a total of two bills with Akin. However, the final version of both bills did not include language dealing with “forcible rape,” as it had been struck from the bills by the time they passed the House.

H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”
H.R. 358, “Protect Life Act.” Open Congress
“Flake calls for Akin to withdraw,” Arizona Daily Star, Aug. 22, 2012
“House Republicans drop ‘forcible rape’ language from bill on abortion,” CBS News, Feb. 3, 2011
“Health experts dismiss assertions on rape,” The New York Times, Aug. 20, 2012


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