‘No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act’ Tests Republican Priorities

In the fight over the “The Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, Republicans in the House may soon have a hard time keeping both fiscal and social conservatives happy.House Resolution 3, which passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, has 221 co-sponsors, enough for it to pass in the House. It’s primarily known for having contained the phrase “forcible rape” in its original language, which seemed to exclude some rape victims from receiving federal help for an abortion. That language was later stripped from the bill, but if passed the bill would still prohibit any federal funds from being used for abortions.

Brian Beutler laid out how the bill presents a sticky choice for fiscal conservatives back in February:

More specifically, it would eliminate tax incentives on employer-provided health care benefits if those benefits cover abortion as a medical procedure.

Supporters of the bill say those incentives essentially constitute federal spending on abortion.

“We want to live up to our commitment to make sure that there is no government funding of abortion,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “And the provision that you speak to does have some connect with a government’s support and funding of abortion.”

Americans For Tax Reform, an anti-tax group, says 237 House members have signed its no-tax increase pledge — but the anti-tax activist and president of ATR Grover Norquist told Bloomberg that he’s wary of the bill as well: “I understand the point they’re trying to make through the tax code, saying abortion is not health care,” he said. “We’re just concerned that policy, however well-intentioned or virtuous, not ever mask a net tax increase.”

But, he said, the sponsors of the bill told him that they would include a provision to cut taxes to offset any potentials tax increases.

The CBO has also released a report saying that the bill “would have negligible effects on tax revenues.”

“Negligible’s fine,” Norquist told Bloomberg. “Zero’s better, so there needs to be an offset.”

The issue was raised in a hearing by the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, with Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) calling the bill “pure social policy that’s going to negatively impact the tax policy of this country.” She added that she couldn’t understand how conservatives could profess to want to keep government out of their lives, and then attempt to enact policy like this: “I cant think of anything more intrusive or invasive than interfering with a woman’s right to choose.”

Pro-choice groups like NARAL also jumped on the discrepancy. “H.R. 3 takes the unprecedented step of manipulating the federal tax code to push an extreme anti-choice agenda, which is why the House’s tax-writing committee is granting it a hearing,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “This bill imposes tax penalties on small businesses and many individuals who purchase private insurance plans that cover abortion care. This begs the question – what incentive does a private-insurance company have to provide coverage for this safe and legal procedure if their customers are going to suffer a tax hike? Since 87 percent of private-insurance plans currently cover abortion care, the effects of H.R.3 would be devastating.”