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.

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Will Bosses be Able to Deny Women Birth Control?

Corporations are a legal construction, they are NOT “people” and as such do NOT have the same rights as individual citizens.  But, that doesn’t matter to corporate CEOs who are apparently practicers of far right religious zealotry.  To them, it’s not sufficient to sequentially discriminate against individual citizens, they now want the right to discriminate against an entire class of citizens, women, based on the CEO’s religious zealotry.  This has to stop!

If SCOTUS strikes the provision in ACA requiring employer policies to assure accessibility to contraception, is that the line they’ll draw?  Or, what happens when the next religious zealot decides it’s against his religion to provide ANY healthcare whatsoever and that they should pray the sickness away instead.  Will they rule in favor of that CEO’s views as well?

Republicans can use their revisionist history and scream as loud as they want, how this is a “christian” nation and how our founders intended to create a nation built upon those tenets, but that’s simply NOT the case. People migrated to the Americas to escape the religious discrimination and deadly purges present in Europe each time leadership shifted.  At the time of our nation’s founding there were multiple religious groups who could have vied for the “official religion” yet that’s not what happened.  Instead, our founding fathers created a “secular” nation with no official religion and no religious tests for its leadership. Instead they set into law, the tenet of religious freedom for all “men” (now interpreted for the last century to be a generic interpretation for both men and women).

Just as each individual President of  the United States of America is denied the ability to put his religion above the law and impose his religious beliefs on the citizens of this nation, NO corporate CEO should be able to put his religion above the law and discriminate against U.S. citizens he’s hired to work in various roles within his U.S. incorporated business.

If the Supreme Court chooses to bestow religious rights on legal entities, corporations, it will set the stage for our next civil war — deciding which religious entity will be our nation’s official religion.  So just like we’re seeing all that religious strife in the Middle East amongst the various religious Muslim sects, this could lead to religious strife across our nation.

Personally, I prefer a secular nation where people have constitutional rights and where corporations have rights to conduct business throughout out nation, but which are not afforded the exact same constitutional rights afforded the actual people of this nation.

NARAL Pro-Choice America on Supreme Court Decision to Hear Case on Contraception Coverage 

Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases related to the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. NARAL Pro-Choice America released the following statement from President Ilyse Hogue:

“While most people agree this much ado about birth control is a waste of time that could be spent on more pressing issues in our country, we’re pleased that the Supreme Court will finally lay to rest the question of whether women’s bosses get to decide if we deserve contraceptive coverage. That this reflects an underlying obsession with controlling women’s lives seems obvious when you observe that the enemies of the new law are not pushing to deny men access to Viagra or any other number of similar medical requests covered by insurance.

“Obviously, we hope the court upholds existing rulings that – in a country where over 99 percent of women report using birth control at some point in our lives – bosses have no business imposing their own politics on their employees’ health and decisions. If we start with birth control, will bosses next get to decide whether or not we get our children vaccinated? Or whether we can use treatments from stem cell research for life-threatening diseases? Allowing this intrusion into personal decisions by their employers opens a door that won’t easily be shut.” 

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