Statement regarding H.R.3, Rep. Chris Smith's "Taxing Women and Families" bill
January 21, 2011
The following statement was issued by Stephanie Poggi, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds:
Yesterday, January 20th, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced an outrageous bill that he’s calling “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”
No doubt Rep. Smith is convinced that putting the words “taxpayer” and “abortion” together will get him all the support he needs. But what would the bill really do?
It would make life harder for a woman and family who are already struggling to make ends meet. It puts up new barriers for people who have recently lost a job or had their house foreclosed on.
This bill says that if you don’t have a high income, you don’t get to decide whether it’s a good time to have a child. You don’t get to make this most fundamental decision for yourself. Only a woman with a high income gets to decide that. Otherwise, Chris Smith will decide for you.
That’s right: Rep. Chris Smith and his friends in the House will let you know how many children you’re going to have and when to have them.
No doubt Rep. Smith would never allow another politician – or anyone – to decide how many children to have in his family. No doubt he thinks it’s pretty important that he and his family get to make that decision for themselves.
The National Network of Abortion Funds believes every single woman and her family need to have the ability to decide whether to have a child.
So, what do tax dollars, or federal spending programs, have to do with the ability to get an abortion? The reality is that for a woman in a difficult financial situation, federal safety net health programs can protect her ability to make her own decision. Right now, the federal Medicaid program that covers low-income people is barred from covering abortion. No other medical procedure is singled out for exclusion. Chris Smith’s bill will expand and worsen this current ban. Shouldn’t our laws be there to protect the common good? Shouldn’t they prevent attacks on those who are struggling to make ends meet and care for their families?
This is about real life and real problems and real desperation. Every day, in communities across the U.S., our Network takes calls from women who need help to pay for an abortion. Women and families who are working hard to take care of their kids. Last year, we received calls from 90,000 women who had nowhere else to turn. They had already done everything they could to raise the money, including going hungry, selling their TVs, living without electricity, and ending up homeless because they used their rent money. We were able to help 21,500 women.
We can’t allow cynical politicians to add to these numbers, especially in this tough economy – to make points with their extremist base.
And there’s another great risk we all need to pay attention to. Just as Rep. Smith was introducing his bill, the press reported new information on a horror story in Philadelphia: an unlicensed abortion provider was charged with killing one woman and several infants, and severely injuring many other women, including rupturing their uteruses while performing abortions. A grand jury investigation of the case also alleged that another woman died as a result of the treatment she received. Women – often women of color and immigrants – reportedly went to this brutal “doctor” because he cost less than other abortion providers in the area. This is what it really means to put huge barriers in the path of a woman who is counting every penny.
This bill from the new House majority similarly will not only take aim at women with low incomes, it will also take aim at women of color and immigrant women because of racial disparities in income. According to the most recent census data, 25.8 percent of African Americans and 25.3 percent of Latinos are living in poverty, compared to 12.3 percent of whites and 12.5 percent of Asians. As a result, women of color and their families are more likely to suffer from lack of access to affordable abortion care, as well as other critical health care.
The bill also heaps new taxes on private abortion coverage in health insurance, trying from every angle to make abortion almost impossible to obtain.
Join us in opposing and exposing this attack, which would:
Take away, permanently, all federal spending for abortion care. This means that a woman who is enrolled in the federal Medicaid health program for low-income people would be unable to decide for herself whether to have a child. This means literally forcing a woman to give birth, no matter what her situation is. The bill would worsen already damaging restrictions like the Hyde Amendment by making them permanent rather than subject to annual votes.
Enact the failed Stupak Amendment. Opponents of women’s health care already tried and failed to prohibit abortion coverage in the new health care exchanges. Now they want to try again to ban private abortion coverage in the exchanges that will be established by 2014.
Levy new taxes on those who pay for abortion care or coverage by: Denying tax credits to employers and individuals who pay for health plans if they cover abortion and by forbidding medical deductions for payments for any health plan that includes abortion coverage.
Take away “home rule” from the District of Columbia and refuse to allow D.C. to make sure every woman and family can make the decision they need to. Congress voted in 2009 to lift abortion funding restrictions on the District of Columbia budget and allow it to spend its own money on abortion care for women and families in need.
There are no exceptions in the bill to protect a woman’s health, even if she might become paralyzed or be unable to have treatment for cancer, or if the pregnancy will worsen a severe condition like heart disease. Or even if continuing the pregnancy means she will not be able to have children in the future. The only exceptions include when a woman has been raped or faces danger of death from the pregnancy.
As a society, it comes down to this: what do we think should happen to a woman and her family who need help to pay for an abortion? Do we want our laws to force her to have a child, no matter what the circumstances are? Are we okay with making that decision for another woman, another family? And do we want to pass laws that increase financial obstacles and thus, increase the likelihood that a woman will try to find a cut-rate provider who may injure her?
No, we can’t – and we shouldn’t – live with these policies. Instead, we need policies that protect the ability of every one of us to make fundamental decisions. We need laws that don’t increase risk to a woman and her family, but work to lessen it.
The National Network of Abortion Funds is a network of community-based abortion Funds across the U.S. and abroad. Last year, the Network and funds directly assisted over 21,000 women who needed help to pay for their abortions. We also work to lift economic barriers to abortion at the state and federal level. Learn more at our website: www.fundabortionnow.org