On Wednesday, the US Republican majority House of Representatives passed a sweeping anti-choice bill known as the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” or HR 7. In fact, no taxpayer funding for abortion procedures even exists, yet the bill passed in a strict party-line vote and includes a provision that could require the Internal Revenue Service to conduct audits of rape victims.
In 1973, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade protected a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. But in recent years, the GOP has launched an attack on women’s reproductive rights, including enacting a record number of abortion restrictions throughout the country.
The current bill includes provisions to discourage health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage. It would essentially raise taxes on women and small businesses that purchase private health insurance plans that include abortion coverage.
While it includes exemptions for victims of rape, incest, or life-threatening complications, women would be required to prove to the IRS that they were assaulted or that their life was threatened by the pregnancy in order for the exemption to apply. “Imagine having to recount a sexual assault – a horrifyingly painful, personal experience – to a tax collector,” NARAL Pro-Choice America notes.
The Hyde Amendment was intentionally crafted as a discriminatory provision to target poor women, and its application has been particularly detrimental to women of color. As Rep. Henry Hyde (R), the amendment’s architect, stated at the time, ‘I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the… Medicaid bill.’
According to The Huffington Post, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) acknowledged that the mission of HR 7 is also to make it more difficult for women to afford abortion services. “It’s important for this committee to take the lead on legislation to further limit the number of abortions performed in this country.”
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is certainly not the first bill to try and force such stringent abortion restrictions. During the past 3 years, US legislators have enacted as many abortion restrictions as during the previous decade (2001 – 2010), including some of the strictest laws enacted since the passage of Roe v. Wade.
“It’s almost back to the old days, ‘Let’s tell the little lady what she can do,’” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a Pro-Choice Caucus co-chair said at a press conference Wednesday. “Well ladies aren’t going to put up with that anymore… We are as determined as we ever were that we will not go back.”
HR 7 has little chance of passing the Senate; however, RH Reality Check notes that its passage in the house still poses a threat. House action on a bill can serve as a model for similar bills to be introduced in state legislatures.