It’s almost inconceivable – House Republicans, with a handful of Democrats – have passed a bill that could force rape and incest victims to prove to the IRS that they were impregnated by force.
From The Hill:
The House Wednesday evening passed a bill that would permanently ban the use of federal funds on elective abortion procedures, over repeated Democratic objections that the bill goes too far by enforcing this ban through the tax code.
The House approved the bill, H.R. 3, in a 251-175 vote. Every Republican voted for it, as did 16 Democrats.
Republicans cast the bill as a simple codification of the Hyde Amendment, which has been approved as a rider to various appropriations bills over the last few decades. They also said Americans support the idea of ensuring that no taxpayer funds are used for abortions.
In fact, the bill does much more than that, per ThinkProgress:
– Redefinition Of Rape: The bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) faced serious backlash after he tried to narrow the definition rape to “forcible rape.” By narrowing the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment, Smith sought to prevent the following situations from consideration: Women who say no but do not physically fight off the perpetrator, women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped, and minors impregnated by adults.
Smith promised to remove the language and while it is not technically in the bill, Mother Jones reports that House Republicans used “a sly legislative maneuver” to insert a “backdoor reintroduction” of redefinition language. Essentially, if the bill is challenged in court, judges will look at the congressional committee report to determine intent. The committee report for H.R. 3 says the bill will “not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape” — thus excluding statutory rape-related abortions from Medicaid coverage.
– Tax Increase On Women And Small Businesses: H.R. 3 prevents women from using “itemized medical deductions, certain tax-advantaged health care accounts or tax credits included in last year’s health care law to pay for abortions or for health insurance plans that cover abortion.” In doing so, the bill forces women and small businesses that provide health insurance that covers abortion to pay more in taxes than they would otherwise. Both economic conservative Grover Norquist and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce noted that the bill is basically a tax increase.
– Rape Audits: Because H.R. 3 bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” Essentially, the bill turns Internal Revenue Service agents into “abortion cops” who would force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” that compelled an abortion.
In addition, the bill also seeks to extend the federal ban on abortion funding to the District of Columbia, effectively banning abortion in the District by making it impossible for clinics there to provide the service using Medicaid or other public funding; and violating home rule in the process.
And lest you think the most insidious part of this bill — all-but forcing incest and statutory rape victims to give birth to their attackers child — is accidental, consider what the Washington Post reported back in January:
In a sign of the potential confusion that could arise, one senior GOP aide said the wording was meant to prevent coverage for minors who engage in consensual sex that results in pregnancy. In some states, consensual sex involving minors is considered statutory rape.
But Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said he interpreted the wording to exclude all statutory rape, which is typically understood as sex between an adult and a minor.
“We don’t believe that the Hyde Amendment has ever been construed to permit federal funding for abortion based merely on the youth of the mother,” said Johnson, whose group supports exemptions only in cases where the life of the woman is threatened.
Thankfully, the bill will likely go nowhere in the Senate, and even if it did, it would be vetoed by the president. But if this is the GOP jobs agenda, it’s a frightening way to create work — ironically, for the IRS.
Meanwhile, the GOP drive to obliterate abortion rights in the states is moving apace, particularly in Florida:
The state Senate has positioned for final approval a pair of bills that would make it more difficult for women to have abortions in Florida.
One of the bills requires those seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound, and requires that the procedure be reviewed with the patient unless she declines in writing.
The second makes it more difficult for minors to receive judicial waivers of parental notification requirements when they have abortions.
And the Florida bills, like the one in Congress, could hit the most vulnerable, and youngest victims, hardest:
By a 20-19 vote, the Senate defeated an amendment by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, to ease restrictions imposed by a bill tightening requirements for notifying parents when a minor seeks an abortion. Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, is the sponsor of SB 1770, which among other things, forces minors to seek a judicial waiver for parental notification in circuit court, rather than a wider reaching appeal court district. Hays says the goal is to prevent teens from traveling across the state to find a sympathetic judge.
But Joyner, who was backed by several Republicans, argued that in tiny communities where everyone knows everyone including people who work in the courts, that requirement raises privacy and safety concerns for teens. The provision could cause a problem for a young woman who lives in an abusive home and in cases of rape or incest.
“There are parents out there who are unbelievably violent,” said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach.
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said its “absolutely wrong” to deny a girl as much privacy is possible in such situations.
“It’s not their shame,” he said, noting that some young women keep a rape a secret for years. He told his Republican colleagues that voting in favor of the amendment is not being “soft on abortion” but providing women some privacy and dignity.
“You can go back home and you can say you voted pro-life, you were solid on pro-life. But you can also then say, I also have compassion,” he said.
But of course for the anti-abortion zealots running Florida, compassion for women, or even for teenage victims of incest, is hardly the point. Imagine a young girl being forced to go before a judge who golfs with the father who impregnated her. That could soon be reality in Florida.
The Florida laws are just two of six different abortion restrictions that will likely be signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
Indiana would be the first state to ban federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the oldest and largest sexual and reproductive health care organization in the United States.
That loss could exceed $3 million, according to Kate Shepherd, Planned Parenthood of Indiana’s director of communications.
Under the bill, abortions would be limited to the first 19 weeks of pregnancy; doctors who perform them must have hospital privileges in the county of service or an adjacent county; and Indiana’s informed consent law would be expanded.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana called on Daniels to veto the bill, warning that the state will face a costly lawsuit and the potential costs of more unintended pregnancies, Medicaid-covered births and even more abortions.
“It does not matter what side of the issue you are on, it’s a really bad idea for politicians to dictate medical advice and pass it into law,” said Carboneau, who is a member of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and also teaches sex education classes at her church.
At some point, you’d think Republicans would get around to passing bills about jobs.
UPDATE: 2 Political Junkies has the list of the 16 House Democrats who voted in favor of the redefining rape bill on Capitol Hill.
Related: Alternet posts a piece that makes a fundamental point: the Christian right owns the tea party, and they’re after women’s rights.