Chris Smith Introduces Radical Abortion Ban

This week RH Reality Check celebrates the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which is on Saturday, January 22nd, 2011.

No one should be fooled by the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or H.R. 3, which was introduced today in the House of Representatives. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the main sponsor, claims that his bill would “only” codify, or make permanent, the Hyde Amendment, which is the annual appropriations rider that restricts Medicaid funding for abortion. But it would do much more than that. Rep. Smith’s bill would go far beyond current law, seriously compromise women’s access to reproductive health care, and hamstring government operations.

A hard look at the bill, as it was introduced in August, shows that it would:

  • Impose a permanent, blanket prohibition on any and all federal spending for abortion care. Under current law only specific programs have abortion funding restrictions, and those must be reauthorized every year.
  • Enact the rejected Stupak Amendment by denying federal credits or subsidies to private health insurance plans that cover abortion even when the cost of abortion coverage is paid for entirely with private funds. This would have the effect of banning abortion coverage in the new health insurance exchanges that will be established by 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act allows insurers to offer abortion coverage and accept federal offsets for premiums if enrollees make a separate premium payment for the cost of abortion coverage from private funds and if insurers keep those funds separate from federal premium payments and credits.
  • Impose tax penalties on those who pay for abortion care or coverage by:
    • Denying tax credits to employers or other entities that pay for health plans that cover abortion
    • Denying tax credits to individuals or entities that pay for abortion care
    • Disallowing medical deductions for payments for any health plan that includes abortion coverage or for any medical expenses related to abortion care
    • Treating as income any amounts paid for an abortion from a tax-preferred trust or account, such as a health savings account

None of these restrictions exist under current law.

  • Forbid any facilities owned or operated by the federal government and any individuals employed by the federal government from providing abortion care. Facilities bans currently apply to the military and the Indian Health Service. But there are no explicit bans on other specific facilities and there is no permanent, blanket prohibition on all federal medical facilities and employees.
  • Deny “home rule” to the District of Columbia by imposing all of the above limitations on the District of Columbia. 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 if it so chooses.

Make no mistake: Each of these provisions represents an expansion, not simply a codification, of the abortion funding restrictions that exist in current federal law.

The only exceptions in the bill include instances when:

  • The pregnancy results from an act of rape or incest with a minor
  • The woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself

There are no exceptions to protect a woman’s health in nonlife-threatening situations—for instance, when her pregnancy might cause blindness, might threaten her future fertility, or might worsen a chronic health condition such as heart disease. Nor are there any protections for a woman who is suicidal or in the case of a fetal anomaly, even when the fetus is unlikely to survive.

The bill also would codify the Weldon Amendment, the annual appropriations rider that allows individuals and entities to refuse to perform activities related to abortion care. This provision prohibits “discrimination” by a federal agency or program or any state or local program that receives federal financial assistance against any individual or institutional health care entity that does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Current law only limits federal funding for abortion in certain government-run or -managed health programs. But the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would impose blanket prohibitions on all forms of direct and indirect funding streams that might potentially touch on the provision of abortion care. Rather than securing the ostensible goal of shielding citizens who object to the use of taxpayer money for abortion—a questionable objective given that taxpayers are not similarly protected in other areas of controversial funding such as the death penalty or war—Rep. Smith’s bill would accomplish the unstated end of making abortion as difficult to obtain as possible without actually criminalizing it.

What’s more, H.R. 3 would redefine the concept of government funding far beyond the current common understanding. It does not simply prohibit the use of federal funds to directly pay for abortion. Instead, it would insert itself into every crevice of government activity and prohibit even private and nonfederal government funds from being spent on any activity related to the provision of abortion any time federal money is involved in funding or subsidizing other, nonabortion-related activities.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of thinking would prohibit roads built with federal funds from passing by abortion clinics, drugs developed by the National Institutes of Health or approved by the Food and Drug Administration from being used at abortion clinics, or medical students with government loans from receiving abortion training—all because such uses could be viewed as “subsidizing” abortion with federal dollars.

Even those who agree with the notion that the government should not fund abortion should be wary of the Smith bill, as it would set a dangerous precedent for government spending in areas well beyond abortion. For instance, if its reasoning were extended, religious institutions and faith-based organizations could not obtain tax-exempt status, receive government vouchers to run schools, or accept government funding to carry out secular activities because such government involvement could be viewed as “subsidizing” religious activities and violating the constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state.

This bill is radical and extreme. It is a far cry from any kind of middle ground or compromise on abortion policy. It would enact the rejected Stupak Amendment that nearly brought down health reform, as well as encroach on areas previously untouched by abortion restrictions, such as our tax code. This bill overreaches in every possible way and would only inflame an already intense and intractable debate. More importantly, it would penalize rather than help taxpayers, impede basic government functions, and discriminate against women who are struggling to do their best in a difficult situation.

Tellingly, the bill number indicates that it is the third-highest priority of the new House majority right after its attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Clearly conservatives are much more interested in dismantling health reform and playing politics with divisive social issues than creating jobs and fixing our broken economy.

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  • catseye71352

    We had all better hope that the Senate can stop this dangerous insanity.

  • z3ncat

    And it had to come from a senator from my home state.  I think I’m going to cry.


    Then I will contact everyone back in NJ and tell them to get the rest of the sane, non-anti-women senators & representatives to oppose this thing until it dies the death it deserves to.

  • beenthere72

    I’m a born Jersey girl too.    I’ll do the same…

  • crowepps

    Mexico is being outright run by drugs gangs funded by our insatiable lust for pot, our employment picture is grim, Wall Street is continuing the insane foolishness that ruined the housing market in other areas, our ‘patriots’ are using the scooters Medicare bought for them to go to rallies where they complain government should stay out of health care, bloviators are advocating shooting our congressmen, mad men are doing so, the birds are falling out of the air and the fish are floating on top of the water, the weather is killing people, and THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE is whether a few poor women get to be on the Federal dime when their lives are saved by medically necessary abortions?


    I am just flabbergasted by the STUPIDITY of the average person in this country.  The rich conservative bigots are destroying our democracy and the voters aren’t paying a speck of attention because they’re all down picking up their torches and pitchforks at the “Kill The Slut” rally.


    Honestly, pack it up, gals.  It’s time to abandon ship.  Move to Canada.  Move to New Zealand.  This country is doomed.  The Supreme Court is going to rule that it’s constitutional for the Vatican to set up the Inquisition here and the burnings are going to start again.

  • julie-watkins
    • The pregnancy results from an act of rape or incest with a minor
    • The woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself

    As SaltyC, I think, pointed out, even when the pregnancies match these contitions, abortions are being blocked for medicaid patients.

    Then consider Kansas AG Kline, who believed Tiller was lying about “medically necessary” abortions, and kept trying to prosecute.

    I think there’s been other cases of AG’s and DA’s — especially people of the opinion that “since pregnancy isn’t a disease” then “no abortion is necessary” — who are absolutely certain the horrible abortion doctors are lying murderers, and will use any law on the books. Of course, groups like Operation Rescue will use any laws they can find they think applicable and pester local law officials to prosecute. If there’s any such laws passed, then the “exceptions” are going to be essentially meaningless.

    Also consider the 9yo in Mexico; her mother asked for an abortion before it was “too late”, didn’t happen.

  • plume-assassine

    Crowepps, your comment reminds me of this essay that I found & posted for my facebook friends:

    I have to say that for the most part I totally agree with you (and the author of the essay) — except I feel like I should stay here and fight, instead of going to Canada.

  • puma

    I think there should be a law prohibiting taxpayer funding of salaries to anyone who wastes our time by meddling in the womb at the expense of other more important and urgent business, like feeding the hungry and housing homeless families. If these people want to spend their own time and money grasping for power over the unborn then let them. It’s a free country. Just don’t make a career out of trying to govern the female reproductive cycle. Seriously. Feed the hungry not your ego Mr. Representative. A zygote is not your constituency!

  • freetobe

    A tidbit from NOW that John Bone head said:

    “After a campaign season with promises to put the economy first, the new speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-Ohio), just yesterday clarified that further abortion funding restrictions are of “highest” priority for Republicans, and a jobs package will come later.”

    The “highest priority” my my how they lied and  I  partially blame the uniformed voters especially women who bought their lies. Now look at the mess we are in. Not that it would not come sooner or later but later would have been so much better.

    For a group of politicians who hate large Government geez you know they sure love to control women.

    Where is the outrage????

  • freetobe

    That this bill has 163 cosponsors and a Dem Congresswoman is very concerned that this bill may get past the senate!!!!

    Why aren’t women marching in the streets as in Egypt right now? The GOP wants to take womens freedom away!!!

    The American Taliban is right in our Congress and Senate!!!They are no better than the taliban!!!

  • rebellious-grrl

    Rrrrrrrrrr, we should be marching in the street against the American Taliban.

    We SHOULD be out in the streets protesting this. I am so inspired by the Egyptian people fighting for democracy. The women are fighting along side the men. They fight for democracy and a secular society where women have equal rights.