Monday, January 31, 2011

Injuring and insulting women: legislative edition (Or, "Hereafter Known As The No-Good-Reason Act")

You need to know about this. Chris Smith, along with several other congressmen (many of them newly elected), feel that our representatives' first priority in the new Congress ought to be the passage of "insult plus injury"-style anti-abortion legislation. Enter the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." I want to discuss two especially stupid provisions, which this column summarizes nicely.

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.

I mean, this is purely symbolic for the legislators, and purely punitive for people who need an abortion! Republicans are going after tax deductions? Breezing right past that irony, let's consider: Does the fact that I can deduct my spending on medicine or a doctor's visit from my "taxable income" make me more likely to spend on those things? Not really, it just makes it slightly easier on me to afford the things I need without taking extra money from me at tax-time as though I had spent those dollars on "fun" stuff.

At my current income I don't actually have to pay federal income tax (shocker), but assume the default 20% bracket applied -- if I get to subtract, say, $500 spent on a first-trimester abortion from my total taxable income, I'll save $100 come April 15. Not enough to make me decide to have an abortion, and not enough to make me decide against an abortion if Chris Smith bans that deduction.

Another example, going further afield to tax credits, which really are a significant chunk of money credited to you directly (not just deducted from your taxable income base): if I have dependent minor children I can get $1000 taken off my owed taxes each year. Has that affected my decision to have or not have a child? Would it affect yours? Probably not; people decide to have children because they are ready to and want to, not because someone's giving them a coupon on it.

I know taxes are a drag, so we don't have to keep discussing, but you see the gist: this ban's purpose can't logically be to make people less likely to choose abortions -- it's only to injure them for it by taking out an extra $100 of their taxes (or more, depending on their income bracket), and to insult them by refusing to acknowledge that their abortion counts as a health-related expenditure. (Just like tampons and pads and menstrual cups don't count, either. Just like breast pumps don't count, either. I discern a fucking pattern.)

The Smith bill also would take certain restrictions on federal financing for abortions that now must be renewed every year and make them permanent. It would allow federal financing of abortions in cases of "forcible" rape but not statutory or coerced rape, and in cases where a woman is in danger of death from her pregnancy but not of other serious health damage. It would free states from having to provide abortions in such emergency cases.

FYI, as Sady Doyle notes, "70% of rapes are 'non-forcible.' Rapists consciously seek out people and situations where they’ll have to use a minimum amount of 'force'."

Currently I work in a state that doesn't provide any of its own funds for abortion coverage but supposedly abides by federally-funded Medicaid's mandate to cover abortions in cases where a pregnancy resulted from rape. Even the old-timers at my work say that they have never seen Medicaid cover a procedure, even when the rape was "forcible" (all rape is forcible, obvi, since that's the opposite of consensual, but by this Smith really means there must also be beating), even when prosecution occurred, even when the pregnancy was DNA-matched to the perpetrator. Many clinics don't bother trying to bill Medicaid anymore, so the state is passively stripping women of even the limited rights they supposedly have. Abortion patients whose pregnancies are a result of rape, even patients who do have Medicaid, overwhelmingly are already paying for their own abortion care (and often struggling to do so). And women who can't pay for their own abortion care overwhelmingly are already bearing their rapists' children. Doesn't that warm your Republican heart*? (Oh, a few Democrats too!)

So this provision, too, isn't going to prevent women from choosing abortion. If the federal government reverses decades of painstaking progress in legal thought, jurisprudence, and goddamn human rights, it isn't going to make women who were raped but just not beaten too feel that they deserve to remain pregnant any more than they did before. It's just going to bring written law more in line with the outrageous reality of states already not understanding rape or supporting rape survivors; add to the stigma of patients who choose abortion outside of the few 'acceptable' reasons (e.g. "I can understand it in cases of rape, but this wasn't even 'real rape'"); and in the process possibly fuck up criminal justice even worse than it's already fucked up.

Sorry, y'all: every time I tell myself I'll try not to rant, something comes up that just makes my brain start bleeding out my eyeballs.

*Update: also h/t Sady, these dudes aren't even in touch with their own supporters - in a November poll, "71% of American voters who voted for a Republican candidate opposed the Smith bill."

Update 2: Sorry, I should have included a What You Can Do!  The same post I linked above provides a handy-dandy link to your representatives' contact page and helpful hints (for a sample call, see rabbleprochoice):
Click on this, and it should take you to a page where you can find out exactly who your rep is, and what their contact information is. Look that person up on Wikipedia, to get a sense of who they are, if you don’t already know. Then, CALL THEM. Be polite; be professional; do not threaten or use violent or abusive language under any circumstances. Explain to them that their constituents don’t support this bill, explain how and why it’s a bad bill, and let them know that if they support or fail to oppose this bill, they can expect that to impact them in a very bad way when it comes to the matter of keeping their jobs.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this PS. I rarely read these dull pieces, but when they occur on the blog I get an acceptable dose of legislative slop.


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