In the wake of their successful vote to repeal health care reform, House Republicans turned their attention to abortion. Yesterday, New Jersey Representative and Pro-Life Caucus chairman Chris Smith (R) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which according to Rep. Smith is “designed to permanently end any U.S. government financial support for abortion, whether it be direct funding or by tax credits or any other subsidy.”
There is already a no-federal-funding-for-abortion law on the books, the Hyde Amendment, but it must be renewed on a yearly basis.
According to NPR, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” would go even further than the Hyde Amendment by eliminating tax subsidies on any private insurance policy that covers abortion. This means that not only will public sources of health insurance like Medicaid not cover abortions, private insurers will be penalized for providing their customers with comprehensive reproductive health coverage.
“Sanctity of Life?”
House Speaker John Boehner, who designated the bill H.R. 3 to signal it is a top priority, said in a press conference with Rep. Smith that the bill was important to Republican leadership because “our members feel very strongly about the sanctity of human life. We listened to the American people.”
Rep. Smith is quoted by CBS News as saying in the same press conference that the bill means taxpayers will “no longer [be] coerced…to subsidize the killing of an unborn child.”
The irony of Republicans declaring their commitment to the “sanctity of life” even as they vigorously attempt to dismantle health care reform intended to support the lives and well-being of pregnant women, mothers, infants, and children appears — unsurprisingly — to be lost on them.
Pro-choice advocates like NARAL Pro-Choice America’s president Nancy Keenan also points out that the recent election was hardly a referendum on abortion, querying rhetorically, “What happened to the jobs agenda? How many people will be employed as part of their campaign to attack a woman’s right to choose?”
Even More Harm To Women
If this bill is the same as the version Rep. Smith introduced to the 111th Congress in July 2010, it goes well beyond the Hyde Amendment. If that version becomes law, here are some of the women whose access to abortion will be permanently restricted if this bill passes:
- Low-income women receiving Medicaid insurance.
- Federal employees.
- Native American women seeking care at Indian Health Service facilities.
- Peace Corps volunteers.
- Women in federal prison.
- Women in the military, and female family members of military personnel.
- Low-income women in Washington, D.C. In 2009, Congress lifted the ban on the District of Columbia using its own local funds to subsidize abortions for low-income women; this bill would reimpose the ban.
- Women receiving subsidized insurance who have serious but non-life-threatening health conditions that could worsen if a pregnancy is carried to term — the bill doesn’t have a mother’s health exception unless she’s “in danger of death.”
- Women receiving subsidized insurance who are pregnant with a fetus with severe anamolies, even if it is unlikely to survive — the bill doesn’t have an exception for them, either.
- Any woman whose doctor, nurse, or possibly even pharmacist invokes “conscientious protections” allowing him or her to refuse to participate in any abortion-related procedure. In some interpretations, this might include refusing to dispense emergency contraception or hormonal birth control pills.
And of course, the crux of H.R. 3 is not just that it will prevent federal funds from being spent directly on abortion, but that it will impose tax penalties on private insurers who cover abortion and on employers who offer insurance plans, including abortion coverage. Given that this could make it too expensive for private insurers to carry abortion coverage, the list could soon include:
- Any woman, insured or uninsured, who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for a legal medical procedure that the Supreme Court says she has a right to access without “undue burden.”
Take Action: Tell Congress to Stop Attacking Women’s Rights
Please join me in signing a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives registering your opposition to this bill. While the bill is unlikely to become law as long as the Senate and White House remain in Democrat’s hands, it is important for Congress to see that they don’t have a “mandate” to attack women’s rights.
In addition, consider taking a few minutes to call or email your Congressperson — hearing from you directly will make even more of an impact. This is especially important if you’re from a swing state or you know that your Representative has a mixed record on reproductive rights issues!
Photo of a coat hanger was taken from Demion's flickr, and is reused with thanks under Creative Commons Licensing. To the best of my knowledge, the photographer was not intending to make any statement about abortion with this photograph.