The Two Abortion Wars: A Highly Intrusive Federal Bill NY Times Jan. 30
House Republicans are preparing to push through restrictions on federal financing of abortions far more extreme than previously proposed at the federal level. Lawmakers who otherwise rail against big government have made it one of their highest priorities to take the decision about a legal medical procedure out of the hands of individuals and turn it over to the government. Their primary bill —the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — is so broad that it could block insurance coverage for abortions for countless American women. The anti-abortion forces almost derailed health care reform last year over whether people could buy policies that cover abortion on new insurance exchanges. The compromise embedded in the reform law sets up a hugely complicated plan to segregate an individual's premium payments from the government subsidies. It is so burdensome that it seems likely to discourage insurers from offering any abortion coverage at all on the exchanges. But anti-abortion lawmakers are not satisfied. The new bill, introduced by Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican, would bar outright the use of federal subsidies to buy any insurance that covers abortion well beyond the new exchanges. The tax credits that are encouraging small businesses to provide insurance for their workers could not be used to buy policies that cover abortions. People with their own policies who have enough expenses to claim an income tax deduction could not deduct either the premiums for policies that cover abortion or the cost of an abortion. People who use tax-preferred savings accounts to pay medical costs could not use the money to pay for an abortion without paying taxes on it. The only tax subsidy left untouched is the exclusion that allows workers whose premiums are subsidized by their employers to avoid paying taxes on the value of the subsidy. Many, if not most, employer-sponsored insurance plans cover abortions. There would have been a huge political battle if workers were suddenly told they had to pay taxes on the benefit or change their policies. The Smith bill also would take certain restrictions on federal financing for abortions that now must be renewed every year and make them permanent. It would allow federal financing of abortions in cases of “forcible” rape but not statutory or coerced rape, and in cases where a woman is in danger of death from her pregnancy but not of other serious health damage. It would free states from having to provide abortions in such emergency cases. A separate Republican bill would deny federal funds for family planning services to any organization that provides abortions. It is aimed primarily at Planned Parenthood's hundreds of health centers, which also provide many other valuable services. No federal money is used for the abortions. This is a reckless effort to cripple an irreplaceable organization out of pure politics.