Proposed Pennsylvania bill would require mothers on welfare to prove rape

A recently proposed Pennsylvania House bill is seeking to limit welfare benefits to low-income women who give birth while in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

The bill, proposed by state representatives RoseMarie Swanger (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), Keith Gillespie (R), Adam Harris (R) and Mike Tobash (R), is meant to discourage women from giving birth to multiple children while on welfare. It would restrict any additional benefits for children born under the program, despite the fact that growing families are likely to be in need of more assistance.

The only exception the bill provides is for births that result from rape. If a woman can prove that she is a victim of rape or incest, she can prevent her welfare benefits from being reduced.

The bill reads:

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.

Women who apply for an exemption must provide proof that they reported the crime to a law enforcement or child protective service agency and they must also sign a statement to show they understand falsifying this information is punishable by law.

Tara Culp-Ressler, of Think Progress, reported on the story earlier today, pointing out that not only do some low-income women not have access to affordable contraception, but the bill also perpetuates a “dangerous attitude toward survivors of sexual assault.”

“Forcing women to prove the legitimacy of their sexual assault, and warning them about the serious consequences of ‘crying rape’ to cheat the system, puts forth the misguided assumption that victims of sexual violence are not to be believed,” Culp-Ressler wrote.

Last month, New Mexico proposed a similar bill requiring women seeking childcare assistance to prove they were “forcibly raped.”

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