The Republicans’ Dangerous Quest to End Nonexistent Taxpayer-Funded Abortion

This post has been updated.

The House of Representatives is set to vote tomorrow on H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funds for Abortion Act,” which the National Partnership for Women and Families describes as “a dangerous anti-choice, anti-woman bill.” The bill, introduced by the radically anti-choice Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), is being pushed by religious right groups who insist they want to “end taxpayer funding of abortion.” Even though they were successful in barring federal funding of insurance coverage for abortion in health care reform, and requiring that women who wish to use tax credits to purchase abortion coverage through the insurance exchanges to write a separate check, these zealots want to go steps further: they want to bar private insurers who participate in the insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act from offering abortion coverage to anyone, even when the mother’s health is at risk.

Ultimately, according to Planned Parenthood, the bill “could end private health insurance coverage for virtually all abortions, including private insurance coverage that Americans and their employers pay for entirely with their own money.”

Here’s the other catch: the bill would raise taxes. It would bar women from using federal tax credits to purchase private insurance, through the federal exchange, if their selected insurance plan covers abortion — even if they are using their own money, as required by the Affordable Care Act, to pay for the abortion coverage. Experts believe this could cause insurance companies, for economic reasons, to drop abortion coverage altogether, leaving women without a way for paying for an abortion, even in situations in which a continued pregnancy poses severe health risk. In addition, the Smith bill would prohibit women from using flexible savings or medical savings accounts — which are funded by their own money, not taxpayer money — to pay for an abortion, and would impose tax penalties on small business which provide health insurance to their employees, if the insurance includes abortion coverage. In other words, not only does the bill restrict access to abortion, and may ultimately cause insurance companies to drop abortion coverage altogether, it would result in higher taxes for women and their families, as well as small business who provide health coverage to their employees.

The bill has 227 co-sponsors, mostly Republicans, and is supported by the Family Research Council, American Family Association, National Right to Life Committee, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Concerned Women for America, Priests for Life, the Susan B. Anthony List, and the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, an affiliate of the American Principles Project, which was launched by Manhattan Declaration author and Princeton professor Robert George. It’s a bill driven by a particular religious view, one that is undergirded by an ideology not just about the fetus (that abortion is murder) but about women and their divine role as wives, mothers, and members of society.

The Guttmacher Institute is out with a compelling new video which highlights crucial facts about abortion and the women who get them (almost one in three American women will have one before age 45). Just three minutes long, it’s a powerful antidote to the crusade to eliminate access to abortion as well as contraceptives. In particular, notice that three out of four women who have abortions describe themselves as “religiously affiliated” and that Catholic women have abortions at about the same rate as all women. (Guttmacher recently demonstrated that unmarried Catholic and evangelical women have sex, and both married and unmarried Catholic and evangelical women use birth control, in contravention of religious teaching, as well.)

A crisis brews, in light of Indiana Governor Mitch “social issues truce” Daniels’ signing into law a state ban on funding to Planned Parenthood, Republican efforts to carry out such bans in other states after failing at the federal level, and their quest to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. As Guttmacher shows, poor women need abortions at increasingly higher rates. Why? “Widespread inequities,” including insufficient access to abortion and affordable health care. Watch:

UPDATE: Don’t miss Nick Baumann’s piece at Mother Jones, explaining how after the “forcible rape” provision in a previous version of H.R. 3 was removed after public outcry, Republicans are using “a sly legislative maneuver to make sure that even though the language of the bill is different, the effect remains the same.” (Republicans are trying to narrow the definition of “rape” so that there would be fewer potentially federally funded abortions subject to the rape exception under the Hyde Amendment.)

FURTHER UPDATE, 5/4/11: The measure passed the House this afternoon, with 16 Democrats voting for it. President Obama has vowed to veto the bill if it crosses his desk, and its prospects in the Senate remain unclear.