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House to Vote on Abortion Tax Bill

May 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Under current law, no federal funding can be used for abortions except in cases of incest or rape. But that fact isn’t stopping House Republicans from using the false premise of blocking federal funding for abortions to push legislation that would use the tax code to make it harder for women to use their own money to finance abortion services. Their misleadingly-titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is lined up for a vote today, and, with 227 co-sponsors, it is expected to pass.

Under the bill, any individual — regardless of sex — who uses their own money to purchases a health insurance plan that includes coverage of elective abortion services would not be allowed to any deduct health care costs from their income tax bill. And if a woman uses funds from a tax-free Medical Savings Account or other flexible pre-tax plan, she would be required to report the money spent on abortion services as taxable income. Additionally, small businesses that receive tax credits for providing health insurance for their employees would see their taxes go up if they fail to choose a plan that does not cover abortions. These provisions would be enforced by the IRS, which means that if you’re a woman and you get audited, be ready to prove to government investigators that you did not have an abortion over the past year.

Ultimately, this isn’t just about punishing women who have abortions, it’s about making safe abortions virtually unavailable. If individuals can’t deduct their health care costs, they will stop purchasing insurance that covers abortions and market forces will cause insurance companies to drop abortion coverage for all plans. And when the new health care law takes effect, insurance plans that cover abortion services would not be allowed to be sold through the new insurance exchanges, which, under the health care law will be the only places individuals can purchase qualifying health coverage to avoid the hefty tax penalty under the individual mandate.

The whole bill is premised on the idea that money is fungible. So, all income that individuals are allowed to keep due to some tax credit or other are considered “federal funds.” David Waldman at Daily Kos makes a convincing argument that setting this precedent of using fungibility to deny tax credits means that the same argument can be made to essentially raise taxes on any groups Congress wants to target — health benefits won through collective bargaining, same-sex partner benefits, etc.

The bill is being brought to the floor under a closed rule, which means that no amendments can be offered. The debate time is being limited to 60 minutes and all points of order against the procedure of substance of the bill are being waived.

UPDATE: This passed the House, 251-175.

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