OpenCongress will be shutting down on March 1st. But don't worry: We're doing so for a number of good reasons. From then on, we'll be redirecting users to the excellent GovTrack, where you can continue to monitor Congress.

OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

Republicans Strike Rape Redefinition Language From Abortion Bill

March 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last month, House Republicans proposed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would redefine rape so that women on Medicaid could only have abortion services covered if the rape was “forcible.” It would also deny abortion coverage to victims of incest who are 18 years of ago or older. Not surprisingly, people were outraged at the proposal and for weeks talk of the redefinition provision dominated discussions of the new Republicans’ anti-abortion agenda in the political blogs and the social media universe.

Since then, Republicans have backed off a bit. According to a memo (PDF) released yesterday, they are amending the bill to eliminate the rape redefinition and the incest language. They’re even eliminating the term “pregnant female” from the bill and replacing it with “woman.”

Now that the most blatantly offensive language in the bill has been removed, it’s time to look at the broader impact the bill would have. Republicans like to say that the bill would merely codify existing restrictions on federal funding for abortion that is currently reauthorized by Congress every year (i.e. the Hyde Amendment), but the truth is the bill goes much further than that. It would severely restrict private insurance coverage of abortion services by, for example, hiking taxes on companies that offer insurance plans to their employees that include abortion coverage. And it does this by inserting the theory of the fundamental fungibility of money into the U.S. code, which could be used as a wedge for banning any woman who receives any tax credit from paying for abortion services, even entirely out-of-pocket.

David Waldman at Daily Kos explained this well a few weeks ago:

In H.R. 3, [the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act], Republicans revive the mid-90s “Istook amendment” theory of the fungibility of money to include under their definition of “taxpayer funding for abortion” all tax deductions, credits or other benefits for the cost of health insurance, when that insurance includes under its plan coverage for abortion.

So if a company provides health care benefits for its employees, and the plan they pay for includes coverage for abortion, the company becomes ineligible for the normal federal tax deductions and credits that are the usual reward for providing benefits. That’s a gigantic tax increase. If you pay for your own coverage directly, no deductions, credits, etc. for you, either, if the plan you select offers abortion coverage. Whether you or someone on your plan ever gets one or not. All deductions associated with your health care costs are disallowed. That, apparently, will impact approximately 87 percent of private insurance plans on the market today.


If the anti-choice zealots can successfully enact a law that gives the federal government the inroads and leverage to impose tax penalties on the availability of abortion services coverage, what prevents their using the same power to penalize contraception coverage? And that’s just the smallest theoretical step you can make from the abortion issue. Nevermind that the theory is the same whether they want to reach into other areas of medical coverage, or anything else they’d like to get their hands on. Same sex partner benefits, for instance? Health benefits won through collective bargaining by public employees’ unions? You can all certainly imagine more.

The bill is scheduled for a mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee this Thursday at 10:00 a.m.

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.