Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr.(D-Mich.) spoke forcefully against H.R. 3, the misleadingly named, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” during a Judiciary Committee markup. If enacted, H.R. 3 would expand current restrictions on abortion and impose an unprecedented penalty – by use of the tax code – on privately-funded health care choices made by women and their families. This new penalty takes the war against women’s health and freedom to an entirely new level.
“Rather than turning immediately to the true challenges that we face, my Republican colleagues have mounted an aggressive assault on women’s health and constitutionally-protected rights,” said Conyers. “This bill has little to do with federal funding of abortion; federal law already prevents that. Its goal – and effect, if ever enacted – is to make abortion and coverage for abortion services completely unavailable.”
After three and a half hours, House Judiciary Committee Republicans voted to approve the bill despite strong opposition from Mr. Conyers and his Democratic colleagues, who raised numerous concerns about how the bill would harm women’s health, single out women in the District of Columbia for particular harm, alter existing insurance coverage, and increase taxes on women, families, and businesses that subsidize insurance for employees. However, all fifteen amendments offered by Judiciary Democrats to address these concerns were rejected.
Mr. Conyers’ remarks from the markup are below:
With today’s markup of H.R. 3, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to push a divisive social agenda that has nothing to do with jobs or the economy. In recently criticizing the president for determining the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" to be unconstitutional and indefensible, the speaker accused the president of misplaced priorities.
As Speaker Boehner’s spokesman elaborated:
"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."
Given their legislative priorities, I believe it is my Republican colleagues who owe the American people an explanation. Indeed, rather than turning immediately to the true challenges that we face, my Republican colleagues have mounted an aggressive assault on women’s health and constitutionally-protected rights.
For example, the Republican Continuing Budget Resolution passed by the House at 4:40 a.m. on the morning of February 19th includes a measure that would defund more than 60% of Planned Parenthood service providers. This was done because Planned Parenthood affords women the opportunity to make deeply personal and constitutionally-protected decisions about pregnancy. Federal dollars never funded lawful abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood but, instead, allow the organization to provide critical health care, including birth control, pap smears, and screenings for breast and cervical cancer and diabetes.
In their eagerness to put Planned Parenthood out of business, my Republican colleagues showed no concern for the millions of women who may not receive life-saving care or the birth control that might prevent an unintended pregnancy. They displayed a similar disregard for women and their children when they voted to slash funding for prenatal and children’s health care and to cut nutritional programs that have reduced this country’s appalling infant mortality rate.
The bill we consider today is yet another weapon being used by Republicans in their alarming war on women. H.R. 3, the misleadingly named "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," has little to do with federal funding of abortion. Federal law already prevents that. This bill seeks to expand restrictions in current law and to impose an unprecedented penalty – by use of the tax code – on privately-funded health care choices made by women and their families. Its goal – and effect, if ever enacted – is to make abortion and coverage for abortion services completely unavailable.
As initially introduced, H.R. 3 would have narrowed the already inadequate exceptions for rape and incest, by further limiting funding to cases of "forcible rape" and incest only when the victim is a minor.
According to a witness invited by the Republicans to testify at the Constitution Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 3, this "forcible rape" limitation was intended to "prevent the opening of a very broad loophole for federally funded abortions for any teenager." What a remarkable admission.
Have we not spent years looking into the sexual exploitation of minors and the abuse of young women through date rape drugs and alcohol? While I am heartened that my colleagues now appear prepared to respond to the justifiable fury at their efforts to narrow protections for survivors of rape and incest, their decision to target young women in the first place – and the fact that they had to be forced into removing these draconian restrictions – reveals an appalling disregard for the most vulnerable among us.
The bill also patently discriminates between those who have rights of conscience. Although it protects those who refuse to provide abortion services, the bill fails to protect those who provide these services. Just as those who refuse care may be motivated by sincerely held religious or moral beliefs, so too are those who provide it. Their rights of conscience are entitled to the same respect and protection.
Finally, H.R. 3 constitutes an unprecedented use of the Internal Revenue Code to penalize privately-funded decisions about abortion. It does so by denying tax deductions, credits, and benefits for money spent to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses or to purchase health insurance, to the extent that the money pays for abortion services or for insurance that would cover such services.
Let’s call this legislation exactly what it is: a huge tax increase on any individual, family, small business or employer who makes a particular health care choice that some of my colleagues do not like. The supporters of this bill cannot truly believe that the denial of a tax exemption is necessary to prevent public funding. If so, we’ve apparently been using public money to fund religion for years. And, I will certainly be interested in hearing how the Republicans plan to address that.
Mr. Chairman, the overall impact of this bill is clear. It seeks to stop insurers from including coverage for abortion services in health insurance plans by imposing a harsh tax penalty for doing so. This will eliminate coverage that families across America now have and now pay for with their own money. Without the safety net that this insurance currently provides, women and their families will be placed in financial and physical jeopardy. To the extent they can cover costs out-of-pocket, their taxes will also be increased for doing so.
It has always been easy to bully the poor. Today, the Republican majority’s war against women has reached the private health care choices of all families. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in opposing H.R. 3.