The House Ways and Means Committee has passed a bill that would limit tax breaks for health insurance policies that cover abortions.

The bill would prohibit women from deducting the cost of an abortion from their taxable income, and stop small businesses and taxpayers from using tax credits in the Affordable Care Act to offer or pay for insurance to cover abortions, according to the Associated Press. Women who paid for an abortion using money saved in health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts would have to report the amount as taxable income, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the woman’s life would be in danger.

The committee voted 22-14 on Thursday along party lines to approve the bill and send it on to the House. All Republicans on the committee voted for the bill, and all Democrats voted against it, according to Bloomberg.com.

“The legislation is necessary because the Democrats’ health care law included a massive expansion of the IRS’ authority and concocted a host of ways to funnel taxpayer funds for various costs and procedures, including abortions,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., in an opening statement prior to the markup of the bill on Thursday.  “In response, our colleague, Chris Smith, introduced H.R. 3, which is designed to prevent the use of taxpayer funding for abortions.”

Camp noted that a hearing in the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee two weeks ago revealed that the tax implications of that measure were unclear (see Congress Deliberates on Taxes and Abortions). He said it was the Ways and Means Committee’s responsibility to address the concerns raised in that hearing on the tax implications of the Smith bill.

Camp noted that the bill would not affect either the ability of an individual to pay for an abortion (or for abortion coverage) through private funds, or the ability of an entity to provide separate abortion coverage. It also would not apply to abortions in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening physical condition of the mother. In addition, the bill would not apply to treatment of injury, infection, or other health problems resulting from an abortion.

Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., the ranking Democratic member of the Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee, also referred to the earlier hearing during his opening statement, and noted that the bill had been modified from an earlier version, but he still wasn’t satisfied with it. He believes it goes well beyond the Hyde amendment, named after the later Congressman Henry Hyde, which already banned the use of federal funds for abortion.

“Earlier this month, the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee held a hearing on HR 3,” he said.  “The good news is that the bill before us today is an improvement.  That bad news is that it is still a bad idea. This bill goes beyond the Hyde Amendment in that it turns the ‘federal funding’ concept on its head.  I believe even Henry Hyde would have blushed at the stretch here.”
Neal noted that the bill would simply add more complexity to the Tax Code and place burdens on women who could not afford to pay for an abortion on their own.

“Not all pregnant women will face this dilemma,” said Neal. “If they are wealthy enough to not need premium assistance, then the IRS will not audit their decision. If they are fortunate enough to work at a large corporation not needing small business health credits, then the IRS will not audit their decision. This bill adds more complexity, more uncertainty, and more inequity to the Code. Mr. Chairman, I cannot recall a time in my two decades on this Committee—and I have checked with a few others that served this Committee before me—that we have devoted a full hearing and markup to this topic.  I regret that it takes away our attention from our shared goals of job-creation and tax reform. And I regret that this bill is overall just a tax increase on women.”

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