By Congresswoman Julia Brownley
Originally published in the Ventura County Star
It has been more than 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade. In that decision, the highest court in the land determined that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s privacy and her right to choose what is best for her and her family when it comes to making decisions about her own health.
In 2012, several Republican candidates running for various offices across the country, including on the presidential ticket, made shocking and ill-informed statements about a woman’s right to choose, about the circumstances surrounding rape and about issues important to women.
There is no doubt that the uproar caused by these statements — and the dialogue that followed — contributed to the election of a historic number of women to Congress and to President Obama being elected to a second term.
Clearly, the American people and the residents of Ventura County spoke; and they did so resoundingly in favor of protecting and expanding the rights of women.
You would think that the leaders of the Republican Party would have gotten the message.
And yet, here we are again.
On Wednesday, 22 men on the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee voted to advance H.R. 7, the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”
Not surprisingly, the title is a ruse. It is purposely misleading because taxpayer funding is already prohibited from being used to pay for an abortion.
What the bill would actually do is make health insurance more expensive for low-income women and raise taxes on small businesses that offer employees comprehensive health insurance.
If H.R. 7 were to become law, it would deny tax credits to income-eligible women who purchase health care through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces if the policy they select includes abortion coverage.
This restriction would disproportionally hurt low-income women, many of whom are counting on this federal assistance to be able to afford health coverage for themselves and their families.
H.R. 7 would also raise taxes on small businesses. Under the bill, small businesses that offer their employees comprehensive health insurance coverage that includes abortion would no longer be able to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit.
The bill would also deny tax credits and deductions to women who use their own money in Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts to pay for an abortion.
Denying these critical tax savings to families and small businesses, solely because of the insurance they choose, is an especially extreme move because most employer-based health plans and health plans in the private insurance market cover abortion.
It gets worse.
To qualify for an exemption to these egregious restrictions on choice, women could be forced to prove to an Internal Revenue Service auditor that they were the survivor of rape or incest.
It is unthinkable that a woman would have to relive such a traumatic experience to a government bureaucrat in order to have access to affordable health care.
It is beyond belief that the Republican members on the Judiciary Committee would put this in the hands of the IRS after spending months denigrating the agency for daring to audit the books of political organizations claiming tax exempt status.
Elections are supposed to have consequences. The American people voted against these ideological attacks on the rights of women. They voted for choice, equal pay for equal work, stronger protections against domestic violence, and policies that grow the economy and create good-paying jobs.
It is often said, and it is true, that when women succeed, America succeeds.
Instead of championing an ideology repeatedly rejected by the American people, it is time for our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle to champion a real social and economic agenda to help women — and their families — succeed.