Pennsylvania Bill Would Reduce Welfare Benefits For Women Who Cannot Prove They Were Raped

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

A Pennsylvania House bill seeks to limit the amount of TANF assistance that low-income women receive based on the amount of children they give birth to while covered under the program.

Despite the fact that low-income women who give birth to children would logically need increased assistance to care for their larger family, Pennsylvania lawmakers — State Reps. RoseMarie Swanger (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), Keith Gillespie (R), Adam Harris (R), and Mike Tobash (R) — don’t want their state’s welfare program to provide additional benefits for that newborn. If a woman gives birth to a child who was conceived from rape, she may seek an exception to this rule so that her welfare benefits aren’t slashed, but only if she can provide proof that she reported her sexual assault and her abuser’s identity to the police:

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.

The language of the bill goes on to note that a sexual assault victim applying for an exemption will be required to sign a statement affirming she understands that “false reports to law enforcement authorities are punishable by law,” and stipulates that Pennsylvania will report any “evidence of false statements or fraud” to the correct department, all the way up to the Attorney General’s office.

Aside from punishing women who have children — particularly low-income women who may not have reliable access to affordable contraception — the proposed bill perpetrates 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. Furthermore, countless women choose not to report their rapists to the police because they fear repercussions from their abusers, who could threaten their lives. An estimated 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities.

This is not the first type of legislation of its kind. Last month, New Mexico proposed a bill that would have required women seeking childcare assistance to prove they were “forcibly raped,” although Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has requested to remove that language.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Photo: NCReedplayer/flickr


Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

Obviously the people only see the one in a thousand welfare women who has more kids to get more money and they want it to stop. This would seem to be effective, except how do you enforce the use of contraception, and what if it fails? That would punish many of the decent people on welfare.

Carolyn S.
Carolyn S5 years ago

Well, I can somewhat see their point. Many women on welfare get pregnant just because they know their benefits will increase. I think this should stop. However, the 'righteous' Republicans sponsoring this bill should be prepared to provide them with free contraceptives, which they probably won't - you know, the right-to-life issue. Then the rape issue would be so very difficult to prove they women would be denied benefits anyways unless the woman had the man prosecuted and he was found guilty in a trial. This, in most cases, is nearly impossible.

Don Schwarz
Don Schwarz5 years ago

"Personally, I think feeding hungry children is one of the BEST uses of my tax dollars."

Bob S.
Bob S.5 years ago

It is true that some people scam the system. It helps destroy it for a needy cause. That is where investigative responses are needed instead of laying those employees off. This last presidential election showed what type of unqualified people are running for office. From Rick Santorum to Akins, the lineup of clowns would have made a circus proud. Now look at the Pennsylvania lineup.They passed PL13-2012 which said that a family Dr. can not tell you if you were poisoned if done by a oil & Gas driller. Radioactive isotopes , dynomite, toxic chemicals, construction equipment and large pipes can be stored in your yard next to the house. If they drill and pollute your water supply, they have a special test to protect the drillers. If you sue, the judge puts a gag order on the settlement to protect the drillers reputation.

Zee K.
Helen Porter5 years ago

How you going to prove rape!

You're not exactly taking pictures.

You're probably terrified of the knife.

And he promised to come back.

janice b.
jan b5 years ago

The middle east Taliban requires 4 witnesses to a RAPE.
So Pennsylvania is quite lenient ?
We have the American version of the taliban and if you don't believe it....just be attentive to what is going on in this country with the republican party.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown5 years ago

Kimberlee- Good point, but wow that is some scary imagery! Razor-bladed lined vagina, and I thought the razor blades in apples people talk about during Halloween was scary (LOL)

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

If I lined my vagina with razor blades, I'd probably be sued by my rapist for damages to his manhood.

And the state of PA would probably side with the rapist!

Never had or wanted a gun before. That' changing.

Sylvia M.
Sylvia M5 years ago

It is sad that Pennsylvania, a mid-Atlantic state, is morphing into a repressive regime much like the taliban and other styfling, inhumane systems in various parts of the world. Of course, this has the potential to help the economy of the Great State of New York (my home) tremendously, until, that is, they put up chickenwire at the border to keep Pennsylvanians from leaving and heading north.

These are the same people who would legislate morality and issues of birth control and family planning who will bray at the ideas of contraception and medical choice. They will bemoan the "freeloaders" who just have kid after kid to get on and stay on public assistance. Hypocrites! Aren't these women just doing their duty? Isn't every single life precious? Oh, right-until it vacates the womb and enters the world. Then the heck with it. Too bad.

Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago

All of welfare needs to reformed, there's way to many cheaters on it and workers just can't afford them any more! Thanks for article!