House Republicans Are Pushing A Bill That Would Force The IRS To Audit Rape Victims

BY TARA CULP-RESSLER

House Republicans Are Pushing A Bill That Would Force The IRS To Audit Rape Victims

women's health

PHOTO CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MIKE GROLL

House Republicans are currently advancing the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,” or HR 7, a measure that would impose sweeping restrictions on abortion coverage that could make the procedure less affordable for Americans across the country. In addition to preventing low-income women from using their Medicaid coverage to access abortion, HR 7 could also have dramatic implications for the tax code and the private insurance market. One of its most controversial provisions could actually require the Internal Revenue Service to conduct audits of rape victims.

Why? Because HR 7 eliminates medical-expense deductions for abortion care, essentially raising taxes on the women who opt to have an abortion. Like many abortion restrictions, this provision includes an exemption for victims of rape and incest, as well as women who encounter life-threatening complications from their pregnancies. But in order to enforce those exceptions, the IRS would have to verify that the women who are claiming a medical-expense deduction for an abortion fall into one of those three categories, to ensure they’re not committing tax fraud.

Essentially, that would empower the government agency to have the final say over what “counts” as a sexual assault or a life-threatening situation. And that, in turn, would force victims to prove their case.

“Imagine having to recount a sexual assault — a horrifyingly painful, personal experience — to a tax collector,” NARAL Pro-Choice America says in an action alert to its members to encourage them to mobilize against HR 7. “An anti-choice bill in Congress would do just that. It could force sexual assault survivors who access abortion care to prove the assault occurred.”

That certainly sounds horrific. However, it’s important to remember that HR 7 is hardly the only piece of anti-choice legislation that sets up this dynamic.

The biggest political controversies over abortion policies throughout the past year have centered on rape victims, highlighting the anti-abortion laws that don’t extend any exceptions to them. It’s easy to see why the pro-choice community focuses on leveraging the outrage surrounding rape and abortion. Voters overwhelmingly favor legal abortion access for individuals who have become pregnant from rape, and policies that don’t fall in line with that seem especially callous.

But even when abortion restrictions do include some kind rape exception, as HR 7 does, the issues don’t end there. Exceptions for rape victims have some unintended consequences. They require some kind of system to separate the women who have become pregnant from sexual assault from the other women who want to end a pregnancy for a different reason. They essentially necessitate “rape audits.”

And in states across the country, that’s exactly what’s already occurring. The audits aren’t being conducted by the IRS, but they are being conducted by state officials.

Medicaid coverage for abortion services provides the best example of this. The Hyde Amendment, the policy that currently forbids low-income women from using their Medicaid coverage to help pay for abortion services, includes the same exceptions as HR 7 does. Thirty two states and the District of Columbia follow that federal standard for their local Medicaid funds — so, if the women who live there want to claim one of those exemptions, they already need to sufficiently prove why they deserve it. Some states require more proof than others. In 22 states, low-income rape victims who want to use their Medicaid coverage to pay for their abortion need to present a doctor’s note. Eleven other states require them to file a report with law enforcement or a social services agency. Last year, Iowa approved a law that requires the governor to personally approve each woman who’s seeking an exception to the Medicaid coverage ban.

Studies have found that these exceptions don’t operate as intended. Most rape victims who rely on Medicaid don’t actually end up getting reimbursed for the procedure, largely because of all the red tape. “Basically these exceptions don’t work. It’s really a myth that there is coverage that is still provided,” Stephanie Poggi, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, told the Washington Post.

Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped state legislatures from moving forward with similar restrictions in other areas of the insurance industry. Outside of Medicaid, several states have already imposed abortion restrictions on the private insurance market that are similar to HR 7. And the health reform law has given states an opportunity to impose coverage bans on the procedure in their new insurance marketplaces.

We already live in a world in which navigating insurance coverage for abortion is so complicated that many women simply assume their insurer won’t pay for it, and end up financing the entire cost out-of-pocket. And we already live in a world in which victims of sexual assault are forced to prove the validity of their experiences to a skeptical society that doubts they’re telling the truth. We certainly live in a world that’s enacted nearly as many barriers to abortion access as humanly possible. Abortion restrictions that assume that some women’s reasons for terminating a pregnancy are somehow more valid than others exploits all of these dynamics. HR 7 fits neatly into this worldview — but it’s a continuation of a trend, rather than a brand-new outrage.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Get that Politician and that Protester Out of My Vagina!

On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard a challenge to a Massachusetts law that prevents protesters from standing within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. And, the House Judiciary Committee gave their blessing for HR7 …. the Rape Audit bill.  GOP members on that committee have hung their hat and their votes on their interpretation of the Constitution, that all human beings are created equal and endowed by their creator with unalienable rights, the rights of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness  …. unless of course, you’re a pregnant woman … and then, well, you’re just an incubator.

HR7-RollCall8-JudiciaryCmtee

Transplanting Taxes from Corporations to the Rest of Us

American taxpayers are increasingly picking up the tab for unpaid corporate taxes.

— by Scott Klinger

Scott Klinger

Today, corporate profits are setting all-time records while middle class families continue to struggle financially. These trends are intertwined.

Whether you’ve clicked to send your tax forms to the IRS along the cyber-highway or dropped your return in the old-fashioned blue mailbox, you’ll be paying extra to cover the growing amount of taxes that the nation’s clever corporations are shunting onto individual taxpayers.

Officially, the U.S. corporate tax rate stands at 35 percent, but in practice it’s far lower. Corporations have lots of tricks in their box of tax-avoidance tools.

Consider Pfizer’s track record. The drugmaker increased its offshore profits by $10 billion in 2012, boosting its offshore stash to $73 billion — all of it untaxed by Uncle Sam. Like most pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer registers its patents in a low-tax offshore haven, and then charges a high price for the use of this “intellectual property.” Doing so, it shifts all of its U.S. profits offshore, avoiding U.S. taxes and bloating its overseas bank account.

Pfizer’s tax dodging prowess has earned it a gold medal in the sport, but it has also drawn unwanted attention from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC wrote to Pfizer last year asking them to explain four years of large losses in their U.S. operations despite reporting about 40 percent of their sales on American soil. Undeterred by the SEC investigation, Pfizer added a fifth year of U.S. losses to the string in 2012.

Imagine for a moment one of the physicians that prescribes Pfizer’s products taking their diploma off their office wall, carefully packing it up, and shipping it to a bank vault in the Cayman Islands. That diploma represents the doctor’s intellectual property. Without it, they would not be able to practice their profession.

After each visit, patients approaching the check-out desk would be given their bill and an envelope to mail their check to a post office box in the Cayman Islands. Faced with confused looks, the receptionist cheerfully explains, “Well, we have to pay for the use of the skills represented by the diploma, which is housed in the Caribbean.”

The corporate offshore tax dodge that shifts $90 billion of tax expenses onto individual taxpayers this Tax Day is just that crazy. Just like having a doctor’s diploma parked in the Cayman Islands does nothing to improve the quality of care, having corporate profits transferred from America to tax haven nations provides no enhanced benefits in terms of product quality or service. In other words, there is no economic value. It only serves to add more to already-overflowing corporate coffers.

Taxing Economics, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Taxing Economics: Tax havens put the corporate cart before the individual horse by Khalil Bendib

In the 1950s, corporations paid nearly a third of the federal government’s bills. Last year, thanks to the antics of Pfizer and other examples of overly creative accounting, corporate income taxes accounted for less than a tenth of Uncle Sam’s total revenue. This dramatic shortfall shows up in two ways — federal budget deficit growth and the growing trend of individual taxpayers paying an increased share of the costs of government.

Only about two in every thousand American businesses are even eligible to play this game, and far fewer actually do. Most business owners are proud to pay taxes they know support schools, good infrastructure, and national security.

If tax-dodging corporations were people, they might say thanks to the responsible taxpayers who are picking up their share of unpaid taxes. But since they aren’t human, allow me to say on their behalf, “Have a Nice Tax Day.”

Scott Klinger is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org