Regardless of your political, economic, religious, moral, and social views, everyone understands that the government needs money to function and perform services. If all the Federal government wanted to do was raise money we could pursue a simpler system, such as a flat tax or federal sales tax. Instead we have an income tax system comprised of thousands of pages of federal statutes, supported by many more thousands of pages of federal regulations, IRS publications, and case law.
Our income tax system is designed to encourage some behaviors and to discourage others. There are a variety of reasons why Congress and the President seek to control behavior. These reasons include public policy, economic policy, religious/moral viewpoints, and for their own political gain.
Representative Christopher Smith (Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus) recently sponsored a new bill (H.R. 3) titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”. This was co-sponsored by 173 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 3 seeks to permanently codify the existing ban on the use of the Federal Governments money to pay for abortions other than in certain limited situations such as rape or incest.
However, it places new strict limits even for situations of rape or incest. Further, it denies tax credits and deductions for health insurance plans, premiums and costs. By doing so, they are trying to use the Federal Income Tax laws and the IRS to enforce their own personal religious and/or moral beliefs.
As introduced, H.R. 3 provided that federal funds cannot be used to pay for an abortion, even if it results from rape or incest unless “the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest”.
- While most people consider “rape” to be “forcible” by definition the sponsor and co-sponsors do not agree.
- There are a number of medical and moral problems surrounding incest. However, the sponsors and co-sponsors of H.R. 3 only consider pregnancy by incest to be a problem if the pregnant woman was a minor.
- Victims who happen to be physically or mentally disabled are singled out for hardship by these definitions.
- Rape victims who are mentally disabled might be less likely to fight against a rapist and thus, not satisfy the “forcible” requirement.
- Rape victims who are physically disabled might be less able to fight against a rapist and thus, not satisfy the “forcible” requirement.
- Mentally and physically disabled women who become pregnant through incest do not qualify if the act of incest occurred when they were over age 17 even if they lack the mental capacity to consent or physical capacity to prevent the incest.
H.R. 3 does not tell people that they can or cannot have an abortion. H.R. 3 simply forbids taxpayers the direct or indirect benefit of tax credits and tax deductions. However, the practical impact is huge.
- Employers who provide health insurance benefits to employees would be denied a deduction if the health plan covers abortions unless the health insurance plan limits coverage to situations involving “forcible rape” or “incest involving a minor”. (How many employers would provide health insurance benefits if they could not deduct the cost?)
- Individual taxpayers would not be able to deduct health insurance premiums that they pay unless the health insurance plan limits coverage to situations involving “forcible rape” or “incest involving a minor”.
- Taxpayers who pay for abortions out of their own pockets would not be able to deduct their expenses unless the pregnancy resulted from “forcible rape” or “incest involving a minor”
How would this be enforced? Guess who….the IRS. The IRS is charged with the responsibility of enforcing compliance with all Federal Income Tax laws. The plan sponsors and co-sponsors of H.R. 3 envision a world where the IRS would ferret out employers who provide health insurance plans that allow abortion benefits for rape or incest unless the pregnancy results from “forcible rape” or “incest involving a minor”.
If H.R. 3 is enacted, Income Tax Returns could include new questions such as:
- If you were a rape victim, were you “merely” raped or “forcibly” raped? (Please provide written documentation, videos or other evidence to support your claim that the rape was “forcible”.)
- If you became pregnant through incest (you must satisfy A and B):
- Was the incestuous man your:
- Other close family member.
(If none of the above, skip part B, you do not qualify for a medical deduction.)
What was your age on the day the act of incest occurred giving rise to this particular pregnancy?
(If you were over age 17 at the time of incest, you do not qualify for a medical deduction.)
- Does your health insurance plan allow for abortion benefits involving rape or incest where there is not a “forcible rape” or “incest involving a minor”? (If so, you may not deduct your health insurance premiums.)
- Does your HSA, MSA or Section 125 Plan allow you to use your money to pay for an abortion involving rape or incest where there is not a “forcible rape” or “incest involving a minor”? (If so, you may not contribute to your HSA, MSA or Section 125 Plan and all purported contributions are subject to tax, plus a 10% penalty.)
It is ironic that this new push for governmental involvement in some of the most sensitive aspects of one’s personal life is spearheaded by the same people who (for areas other than abortion) are fighting hard to keep the government out of people’s personal lives.
Again, H.R. 3 does not make abortion illegal. H.R. 3 discourages abortion through the denial of tax benefits. All other things being equal, H.R. 3 will have the effect of denying some Americans the right to an abortion unless they are they are “forcibly raped” or there is “incest involving a minor”.
Of course, other issues arise such as how employers, health care providers and health insurance companies could comply with these new laws and not violate the HIPAA Privacy laws. (It should be noted that as of the publication of this article, under pressure, the plan sponsor and co-sponsors have, for the time being, dropped the requirement that the rape be “forcible”.)
Copyright ©, Keith B. Baker – 2011
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