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Under Pressure, the Rape Audit Bill Gets A Makeover: New Bill Expected for Floor Vote This Week
WASHINGTON - January 27 - Background on the policy: H.R.7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act--colloquially known heretofore as the Rape Audit Bill--has been gutted and now repurposed as a vehicle for two new anti-choice bills. You may recall this bill as H.R.3 in past versions; it passed the House in 2011.
Far more sweeping in scope than its name implies, the Smith legislation is not about public funding. Current law is clear: sadly, federal funding of abortion care is forbidden, except in very narrow circumstances. Moreover, contrary to what anti-choice lawmakers claim, a federal appeals court confirmed that no federal dollars may be used to pay for abortion services under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “The express language of the [ACA] does not provide for tax-payer funded abortion,” the court wrote. “That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.”
In an unprecedented departure from current law, the Smith legislation seeks to falsely define public funding as including private money that the government has decided not to tax—a politically driven fiction that is not supported by existing law.
The latest changes mark the second time that conservatives have had to re-work this bill. The first time they received wide-spread backlash for their attempts to define rape and incest. Now they are dropping the much-criticized provision that could prompt the IRS to audit a sexual-assault survivor who seeks abortion care with her own, private funds.
MYTH: This bill is necessary to block taxpayer funding from paying for abortion services.
FACT: The dual-payment system in place was designed to ensure that no taxpayer funds were used to cover abortion. To ensure that only private funds are used, insurers are prohibited from taking into account the cost savings of abortion and must assess a minimum of $1 surcharge on all enrollees in the plan.
What we believe:
- “They didn’t get the memo:” As one of their first acts in 2014, the House Republicans have chosen to recycle an anti-woman bill that went nowhere in the last session instead of focusing on the pressing problems the American people care about.
- Out of touch: A 2013 WSJ/MSNBC poll showed a whopping 70 percent of Americans support abortion rights. But instead of governing to support the will of the majority, the House GOP continues to be obsessively focused on denying women their constitutional right to choose.
- Public backlash has forced GOP leaders to cheat: Under intense scrutiny for this unpopular bill, GOP leaders cheated by swapping out distasteful language that could prompt audits of sexual-assault survivors, and added two new anti-choice bills that had not received a hearing.
- GOP leaders’ dirty tricks are more of the same:
H.R.7 would do the following:
- Revive the failed Stupak-Pitts amendment to the ACA, effectively banning abortion coverage in the new health system, even for women in state insurance exchanges who use their own, private funds to pay for their insurance. Experts have stated this could also jeopardize the availability of private insurance coverage of abortion for all women in all private health plans nationwide.
- Impose tax penalties on small businesses that choose private health plans that cover abortion care, with the goal of driving consumers away from these plans. (Absent political interference, 87 percent of private plans cover abortion services.)
- Permanently block abortion coverage for low-income women, civil servants, D.C. residents, and military women by recodifying anti-choice riders that reside elsewhere throughout federal law. Congress should be repealing these unfair and discriminatory abortion bans, not recodifying them.
The brand-new version of H.R.7, unveiled after committee mark-up last week, adds these two new provisions:
- Bans coverage of abortion services for women insured by multi-state health plans under the ACA—private health-insurance plans which offer consumers a uniform array of health benefits in every state in which they operate.
- Mandates health plans to make biased, one-sided “disclosures” of abortion coverage and force plans to mislead consumers about the health-care law’s treatment of abortion coverage. (Note: these are terrible policy proposals, clearly designed to make unavailable abortion coverage in the private market. However, their inclusion in this bill is particularly perplexing; whether through drafting error or malintent, the provisions reference a section of the ACA that the bill also happens to repeal.)