Pennsylvania House bill 2718 would limit the amount of benefits under the TANF program for women based on the number of children they have while in the program. The bill is the bi-partisan effort of Pennsylvania state Representatives Keith Gillespie (R), RoseMarie Swanger (R), Adam Harris (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), and Mike Tobash (R). The bill states that a woman who has been raped may seek a variance on the limits of the program if a child is conceived through a rape, but only if the mother can provide proof of the sexual assault and the identity of the person who assaulted her to the police.
From HB 2718,
"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."
The bill also includes a requirement that the woman sign a statement that affirms she understands that false reports to law enforcement authorities are punishable by law. As well, there is included a stipulation that evidence of false statements or fraud will be reported to authorities, including the Attorney General’s office.
Critics of the bill complain that the bill punishes low income mothers who might not have access to contraception, and supports negative attitudes towrd sexual assault survivors. Additionally, critics state that forcing a woman to prove their assault was 'legitimate' is accusatory, and perpetrates the assumption that sexual assault victims are guilty until proven innocent.
It is estimated that over half of sexual assaults are not reported due to the fear of abusers retaliating.
A similar bill was offered up in New Mexico that included a provision for women seeking childcare assistance to prove they were “forcibly raped.” Gov. Susana Martinez requested the provision be removed from the bill's language.