The serious flaws in the GOP’s anti-abortion bill

THE SERIOUS FLAWS IN THE GOP’S ANTI-ABORTION BILL…. Still avoiding efforts to create jobs, House Republicans are poised to move on their next major initiative: the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”

Nick Baumann did some great work on this last week, highlighting an outrageous provision in the legislation that would redefine rape. Existing law already restricts public funds for abortions, but there are exemptions for impregnated rape victims. This new effort, written by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), would severely limit what would legally be considered rape — if a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, for example, she couldn’t use Medicaid funds to terminate the pregnancy.

But this isn’t the only problem with the law. In the Affordable Care Act, proponents were forced to accept measures that make it extremely difficult to purchase a private health plan that covers abortion. This new “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” intends to make matters much worse, barring outright “the use of federal subsidies to buy any insurance that covers abortion well beyond the new exchanges.”

The tax credits that are encouraging small businesses to provide insurance for their workers could not be used to buy policies that cover abortions. People with their own policies who have enough expenses to claim an income tax deduction could not deduct either the premiums for policies that cover abortion or the cost of an abortion. People who use tax-preferred savings accounts to pay medical costs could not use the money to pay for an abortion without paying taxes on it.

The only tax subsidy left untouched is the exclusion that allows workers whose premiums are subsidized by their employers to avoid paying taxes on the value of the subsidy. Many, if not most, employer-sponsored insurance plans cover abortions. There would have been a huge political battle if workers were suddenly told they had to pay taxes on the benefit or change their policies.

Of course, one of the great ironies of this misguided push is that it comes from the same lawmakers who complain constantly about big government. And yet, as the NYT editorial noted yesterday, these same lawmakers “have made it one of their highest priorities to take the decision about a legal medical procedure out of the hands of individuals and turn it over to the government.”

Realistically, proponents of this bill are wasting time with another symbolic gesture — the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” almost certainly can’t pass the Senate, and would surely draw White House opposition if it looked like the bill might pass.

But the legislation nevertheless speaks to Republican priorities, and given the seriousness of the bill’s flaws, those priorities are pretty odious.