Politics

GOP Anti-Abortion Bill Will Force IRS Agents To Audit Abortions Of Sexual Assault Victims

The GOP’s H.R. 3, or the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions Act, is quickly racking up a number of unprecedented offenses against a woman’s right to choose. Starting with the redefinition of rape, H.R. 3 also torpedoes the GOP anti-tax pledge by changing the tax code to raise taxes on women and small businesses that provide health insurance covering abortions. Now, as Mother Jones’s Nick Baumann reports, this tax code provision would turn the Internal Revenue Service into “abortion cops” who “investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest.”

In the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on H.R. 3 Wednesday, the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee’s chief of staff Thomas Barthold testified that because the bill bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) asked Barthold point blank “if a woman were audited, would IRS agents be at her house demanding court documents or affidavits proving that her pregnancy was the result of rape or incest?” Barthold confirmed what former IRS official Marcus Owens told Baumann — a woman would have to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” that compelled her abortion:

Barthold replied that the taxpayer would have to prove that she had complied with all applicable abortion laws. Under standard audit procedure, a woman would have to provide evidence to corroborate facts about abortions, rapes, and cases of incest, says Marcus Owens, an accountant and former longtime IRS official. If a taxpayer received a deduction or tax credit for abortion costs related to a case of rape or incest, or because her life was endangered, then “on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger,” Owens says. “It would be fairly intrusive for the woman.”

Not everyone has “contemporaneous written documentation” that a pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. And, as Owens notes, adults sometimes pay for abortions for their children. If H.R. 3 becomes law, parents could face IRS questions about whether they spent pre-tax money from health savings accounts on abortions for their kids. “It would seem there would have to be a question about that [in an audit] and maybe even a question on the tax return,” Owens says.

Asking a woman to provide a receipt of her intense emotional and physical trauma goes beyond “intrusive;” it’s destructive to a woman’s health and well-being and abusive of federal authority. Indeed, the bill “contains no instructions for how the IRS should enforce” the provision despite the inclusion of a whole section entitled “Prohibition on Tax Benefits Relating to Abortion.” But despite this ambiguity, 221 House members have sponsored H.R. 3 and, because only 218 votes are needed for passage, the bill is expected to “sail through” the House.

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Kennan called on the 221 members to “explain to their constituents why they want to give the IRS authority to audit rape survivors.” And with 54 percent of the American people supporting abortions in all or most cases and 56 percent viewing creating jobs as the most important focus of the federal government, they may have trouble explaining how this “comprehensive and radical assault on women’s health” is suddenly a “top priority.”