Feb 2011 08

by Damon Martin

No means no, but not if you read the original text of Rep. Chris Smith’s bill, which he introduced to Congress on Jan 20. The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” which he championed sought to further limit government funding of abortions, while also redefining rape under the law by wording the bill to say funding would only be allowed in cases of “forcible” rape.

The U.S. government has never funded abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life, but the new bill introduced by the Congressman from New Jersey would severely – and unworkably – confine abortions covered by public funds to those in the cases of “forcible” rape, an act of incest specifically involving a minor, or if the mother is in physical danger from the pregnancy (meaning her mental state would be entirely disregarded).

Not surprisingly, once the massive implications of the bill’s small print came to light, Republicans came under heavy fire from Democrats, Women’s Rights groups, and pro-choice organizations who said the GOP were looking to redefine the word “rape” with the newly proposed law. However, outrage with regards to this bill shouldn’t just be limited to the 163 Republican Representatives that have supported it – since, shamefully, they were also joined by 10 Democrats.

The way the wording in the original “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” existed, it would seemingly eliminate funding for the termination of pregnancies occurring as a result of date rape, statutory rape, and several other instances of rape, including incest when someone is not a minor. Of course common sense says that rape is rape no matter what word you put in front of it, but common sense and the Republican party rarely go hand in hand.

The progressive grassroots political non-profit have been at the forefront of the opposition to this bill. “The GOP like to claim that they want ‘small government.’ They want government to ‘get out of the way,’ – right? Except when it comes to war, bailing out Wall Street, subsidies for oil companies…or if you’re a woman,” says’s Creative Director Laura Dawn in a statement to SuicideGirls.

“Say you’re a young girl who has been sexually molested by a family member. In that case, they’d like Big Government to get right up in your business, by dictating what you can and can’t do with your own body. Because denying funds and access is tantamount to controlling your options. Republican Chris Smith has never been a sexually abused 14 year old girl. He has no right to deny options and care to any victim of sexual violence.”

Bowing to pressure (MoveOn alone collected close to 300,000 petition signatures in a matter of days), Republicans finally broke their silence on the subject last Thursday announcing that they had amended the wording of the bill to remove the “forcible rape” terminology and replace it with the more commonly known Hyde Amendment, which allows government funded abortions in the cases of rape, incest or physical harm to the mother.

What many people may be missing because of the outrage caused by the inclusion of the term “forcible rape” is the other toxic language that remains in the bill. Aside from limiting direct government funds for abortion, Smith’s bill will also strike down tax subsidies that are given to businesses purchasing health care for employees if said health care covers abortions.

Simply put if your health insurance covers abortions, your employers will no longer get any tax credits for choosing that particular provider. The net result will be that employers will be forced by simple economics to chose plans that don’t cover abortions. Such a measure will likely affect women with the least economic power, making abortion in the worst of circumstances an option only for those that have the fund to pay for it out of pocket.

The language in the bill as is states:

(1) no credit shall be allowed under the internal revenue laws with respect to amounts paid or incurred for an abortion or with respect to amounts paid or incurred for a health benefits plan (including premium assistance) that includes coverage of abortion,

‘(2) for purposes of determining any deduction for expenses paid for medical care of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse or dependents, amounts paid or incurred for an abortion or for a health benefits plan that includes coverage of abortion shall not be taken into account, and

‘(3) in the case of any tax-preferred trust or account the purpose of which is to pay medical expenses of the account beneficiary, any amount paid or distributed from such an account for an abortion shall be included in the gross income of such beneficiary.

To clarify, this particular language remains in the bill that sits in Congress and could eventually become law.

When exploring the bill, people should also look into the man behind the bill. Congressman Chris Smith, who was first elected in 1981, has voted on numerous occasions for pretty much any law that favors of the pro-life movement. Indeed Smith has been recognized as one of the strongest proponents for any pro-life bill, and a major opponent of anything even remotely related to being pro-choice or scientific in nature – particularly with regards to embryonic stem cell research. He has made it his personal mission to take on the pro-choice movement throughout his 30-year political career.

While the terminology surrounding the bill redefining rape has now changed, Smith has still managed to push a bill forward that could lead to dangerous precedents when it comes to determining government tax subsidies or credits given to employers who choose insurance companies that provide coverage for abortions. If this law passes it will therefore likely cause sweeping changes in how insurance companies cover abortions going forward.

If you want to look at progressive laws when it comes to abortions, look to Canada, where the procedure is covered under government provided health care to all citizens regardless of why the abortion has to be performed. Canadian health care doesn’t look to even question things like rape or incest when covering their citizens for the procedure.

Where many Republicans and Americans continuously look to the sky for guidance, maybe more people should just look to our friendly neighbor to the north.


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