Three Pennsylvania lawmakers who co-sponsored a controversial bill limiting welfare benefits for raped women who become pregnant have backed away from the legislation.
The proposed "family cap" measure would prohibit benefit payouts unless women who are raped notify authorities and name their attackers, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer
Republican state Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, the chief sponsor of the measure, defended it early Thursday, only to back away from parts of it within three hours, the Inquirer reported.
"A rape victim won't get a benefit if she doesn't report the rape," Swanger said early Thursday afternoon, defending the bill. "Isn't that reasonable? Why wouldn't you report rape?"
But later she called the newspaper to say the rape reporting requirement was not part of the original bill she had asked the legislative staff to draw up, and would likely not move it forward as written.
Another GOP legislator, Keith Gillespie, removed his name from the bill because "it asks for proof of rape and I do not support the language." He admitted he hadn’t seen the bill before he agreed to join on as one of six co-sponsors.
The only Democrat among the bill’s co-sponsors, Tom Caltagirone, also pulled out, claiming his name had been put on it in error.
In her interview with the Inquirer, Swanger said her constituents implored her to introduce the legislation because “they don't believe the state should continue to help families grow when they can't afford the children they already have.”
But critics of the measure said it punishes women for having children, and experts on rape said the sponsors of the measure don’t understand that many women don’t report being raped because of fear or embarrassment.
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