In the Republican’s Pledge to America, they promise to “permanently end taxpayer funding of abortion and codify the Hyde Amendment.” The Hyde Amendment, which currently must be renewed each year, prohibits all public money from being used to provide abortion care. On the heels of last week’s meaningless vote to repeal health care reform, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey has already made good on the Republican’s pledge by introducing H.R. 3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which boasts 173 cosponsors. Rather than simply and permanently enacting the Hyde Amendment, Smith’s proposed legislation will go much, much further.
The anti-choice movement has been very successful at restricting access to abortion for the most vulnerable American population—women living in poverty. According to the Guttmacher report released this month, in recent years, unintended pregnancy has increased by 29% among women in poverty while decreasing 20% among higher-income women. Women living in poverty account for 16% of American female population, but they account for 30% of the unintended pregnancy rate. Overall, women living at or below the poverty line account for 42% of abortion patients. Unless they live in a state that covers abortion care through Medicaid, most of these women must pay for their abortions out of pocket. Add to this, by 2008, eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties had no abortion provider. In nonmetropolitan areas, the proportion was 97%. As a result, many women must travel substantial distances to access abortion services.
The incredibly restrictive current state of affairs is not enough for Representative Smith and his colleagues. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act won’t even allow for abortion coverage to many women who are victims of rape, incest, or suffering dangerous pregnancies. Smith’s legislation would also narrow the assistance provided only to victims of “forcible” rape, incest victims only if they’re a minor, and women whose life – not health – is at risk if they continue their pregnancies. It is important to note the decision to qualify rape as “forcible,” which sets it a part from statutory rape. Pregnant underage girls who conceive with an adult male partner do not apply to the exception. This may also be extended to exclude victims of spousal rape (as many states recognize spousal rape as a different and lesser crime than forcible rape).
Though the Republicans claim that they are only “making sure” that taxpayer money isn’t used to fund abortion, H.R. 3 goes much, much further by interfering with private health insurance coverage. According to analysis by NARAL and Planned Parenthood, Smith’s bill would create a huge incentive for employers to only offer health insurance that doesn’t cover abortion. Insurers would respond to what their customers wanted, and the percentage of health plans offering abortion coverage—currently 86 percent—would undoubtedly plummet.
So, for those of you keeping track at home, not only are the Republicans concerned with dictating the public purse strings according to their extreme conservative social agenda, they are now interfering with their precious free market in order to further their agenda.