The Limits of Tax Jihadism

| Fri Mar. 18, 2011 10:16 AM EDT

Remember the Republican abortion bill that tried to redefine "forcible rape"? That bit of the bill got removed after a public outcry, but the rest of it is still sailing through the GOP-controlled House. And in its zeal to make sure that no one anywhere ever gets an abortion, Republicans have decided that money you save via tax breaks or tax credits isn't your money after all. It's their money, and they want to make sure you spend it the way they want. Nick Baumann:

Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

....The proposed law, also known as H.R. 3, extends the reach of the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake—into many parts of the federal tax code. In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion. If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, 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.

Here in the Drum household, for example, Marian is very big on taking advantage of her company's cafeteria-style health plan and putting aside pre-tax dollars each year to pay for medical incidentals. This is why I always save receipts for copays or bottles of aspirin or whatnot: so Marian can get reimbursed for this stuff out of pre-tax dollars.

The GOP's normal line is that this is your money, not the government's, despite the fact that it's a tax break that obviously costs the government some revenue. But no longer. If we were to submit a claim for an abortion, I guess it would be illegal unless it were the result of rape or incest. And we'd have a gang of jackbooted IRS thugs smashing down our door and demanding that we prove it.

Or something. It's unclear, of course, what the law would actually require. But at least we finally know the limits of the GOP anti-tax fervor. In a battle between tax cuts and making it harder for women to get an abortion, it turns out that abortion demagoguery wins.