Friday, May 13, 2011

H.R. 3: An End Sweep of Rights

While so much attention has been paid to the death of Osama Bib Laden, yet another Republican House majority attack on civil liberties has moved forward under a new guise. Introduced in the House back in January and renamed H.R.3 to symbolize its importance, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” made its way through committees to the House floor on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, it passed. Essentially, the bill codifies what has already been practice, which is to bar federal employees, members of the military and those who receive federal assistance from using taxpayer money to pay for abortions, with few exceptions.

It is also an end sweep of the 14th Amendment and Roe v Wade and re-regulates women’s reproductive rights in the process.

A top priority of top Republican leaders, co-sponsors John Boehner and Eric Cantor specifically, under the language of H.R. 3, rape becomes "forcible rape." Presumably that modifier distinguishes it from other kinds of sexual assault that are typically recognized as rape, such as statutory rape and attacks that occur because of drugs or verbal threats.

"We want to live up to our commitment to make sure that there is no government funding of abortion," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "And the provisions . . . have some connect with a government's support and funding of abortion." The bill effectively eliminates tax incentives on employer-provided health care benefits if those benefits cover abortion as a medical procedure. Cantor’s contention is that those incentives essentially constitute federal spending on abortion.

Sponsored by Republican Representatives Chris Smith of New Jersey and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, the legislation also enacts strict procedural requirements for private insurance companies that cover abortions and deny tax credits to small businesses that purchase health insurance plans offering abortion coverage. Eighty-seven percent of private insurance plans currently include such coverage.

However, it is not the use of federal money that is at stake. It is a Congressional attempt to legislate around the Roe decision. The American Civil Liberties Union has cautioned against H.R. 3 “making access to abortion services harder to obtain for low-income women.” The ACLU says, “No woman plans to have an abortion, but that is the point of health insurance.” It further says, “That’s why the majority of plans currently include coverage for abortion care. Politicians should not be working to take away coverage that already exists for most women.”
Speaking of which, of the 227 co-sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, count the number of women on the list. But the overwhelming majority of co-sponsors are men, for whom abortion is only a concept.

In the Roe decision Justice Blackmun wrote, “We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified, and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.” H.R. 3 goes after the regulation and not the right of privacy. Republican legislators and candidates, like Donald Trump, may be confused about the right of privacy. Men in Congress will never have to consider having an abortion, but they can regulate women’s reproductive rights, as they always have.

Article first published as H.R. 3: An End Sweep of Rights on Blogcritics.

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