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No Taxpayer Funding on Abortion Act

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Madam Speaker, today we have an opportunity to examine H.R. 3, ``the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,'' a bill which is claimed to simply codify what is already law. However, H.R. 3 is by far more restrictive than any current law, or interpretation thereof.

My colleagues across the aisle claim that this bill is simply about limiting federal funding for abortions. If that were truly the case, then there would be no purpose for H.R. 3, because Federal funding has not been available for abortions since passage of the Hyde amendment in 1977.

The effect of H.R. 3 is, in fact, to so drastically limit access to abortions that they will essentially become unavailable, even when paid for with an individual's own funds. In its attempt to make abortions unavailable, H.R. 3 will have a detrimental impact on women's health, and moreover, attacks a woman's constitutionally protected right to choose.

Twice, first in the Judiciary Committee Markup and secondly when H.R. 3 was being considered in the Rules Committee, I have attempted to offer to amendments to this bill that help to protect both the constitutionally protected rights of women, and their health. In both instances, my amendments were not accepted by the Republican majority on the Rules Committee.

My first amendment would have required the Attorney General to certify to Congress that H.R. 3 does not violate any constitutionally protected right before allowing this bill to take effect. The sponsor's of this bill have been perfectly clear that their goal with H.R. 3 is to create so many barriers and obstacles to abortion that it essentially becomes unavailable. The law is clear that while the government may regulate, it cannot impose an undue burden on a constitutionally protected right. The effect of H.R. 3 would be to impose such an insurmountable burden on a woman's fundamental right to make decisions about pregnancy that it could very likely be considered unconstitutional.

The second amendment I attempted to offer would have created an exception to protect women from severe long lasting health damage. This amendment is supported by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Every year, 10-15 million women suffer severe or long-lasting damage to their health during pregnancy, including but not limited to lung disease, heart disease diabetes, and loss of reproductive ability. H.R. 3 only considered a woman's health when she is faced with death, but provides no protection for women who face serious health consequences from continuing a pregnancy. Congress should not be in the business of interfering with a woman's health, nor should we ever single out women who choose not to endure long-lasting health defects or diseases due to a pregnancy.

H.R. 3 would impose a great burden on a women like Tamara, a mother of 3 who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and found out she was pregnant. She was faced with the difficult choice of carrying the pregnancy to term and risking her own health or terminating the pregnancy to receive treatment for her cancer.

H.R. 3 would impose a great burden on women like Holly from my state of Texas, a mother of two who suffered from a serious illness affecting her liver. Treatment for her liver would pose a threat to her pregnancy.

H.R. 3 goes to new lengths by effectively using the tax code to impede upon a woman's right to choose and essentially penalize individuals for even carrying health insurance that covers abortions.

It imposes an unprecedented penalty on anyone who spends their own money to pay for abortion, or in many cases, those who use their own money for insurance that will cover abortion if needed.

H.R. 3 will actually impose a tax increase on many Americans--across all races, all classes, and all socioeconomic levels. It increases taxes on women, families, and businesses by denying them the normal tax exemptions and credits for health insurance if they choose a policy that provides abortion coverage. This unprecedented penalty is a radical restriction on a lawful and constitutionally protected medical procedure. It will result in a tax increase on anyone who uses their own money to pay for abortion or, in many cases, insurance that would cover abortion.

Furthermore, the Bill puts the IRS into the middle of private and personal decisions by families. The result of this bill would also be that the IRS would be required to use the tools currently available as part of its tax enforcement duties, including the IRS's ability to audit taxpayers, to determine whether tax benefits had properly or improperly been claimed with respect to expenses related to abortion services. Family planning decisions, which are amongst the most personal and private decisions many people face, are subject to scrutiny by the IRS for tax purposes.

H.R. 3 does not merely codify existing protections for so-called rights of conscience. H.R. 3 rejects the even-handed approach taken since 1973 in the Church Amendment, which protects the religious or moral beliefs of those who provide, or refuse to provide, abortion services.

Furthermore, it takes the more-recent Weldon Amendment approach, which allows a large universe of entities to refuse abortion services for any--or no reason whatsoever. Unlike the Church Amendment approach, H.R. 3 protects only those who refuse to provide abortion services, and makes that one-sided protection permanent for all laws by providing a completely new private cause of action. It does nothing to protect those entities that do offer abortions.

The conscience rights of those who provide services, and not just those who refuse, deserve equal respect and recognition. Americans rights of conscience should not be protected only if they accord with the views of the Members of Congress; they should be protected regardless of what lawmakers' personal beliefs are.

Instead of Bringing Up Bills to Create Jobs, Republicans Are Pursuing An Extreme and Divisive Agenda. Today, the House will consider H.R. 3, Restricting Women's Access to Full Range of Health Care Services. Americans want us to work together to create jobs and move the country forward. This bill would do exactly the opposite--move our country backwards in an attempt to re-litigate a divisive issue.

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