Bill Could Force IRS To Investigate Abortions

The "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act" keeps getting more awesome — now it appears that the bill could force IRS agents to interrogate women about whether their abortions were the result of rape.

Nick Baumann of Mother Jones writes that the bill (authored primarily by Rep. Chris Smith, pictured) would essentially "turn IRS agents into abortion cops — that is, during an audit, they'd have to detemine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion." That's because the legislation contains a whole section called "Prohibition on Tax Benefits Relating to Abortion," which would make it illegal, to, say, use funds set aside in a pre-tax health-care spending account to pay for abortion — unless, that is, the abortion was the result of rape, incest, or a threat to a woman's life. That would in turn mean that IRS agents would have to investigate the circumstances of abortions. Writes Baumann,

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."

"Fairly" seems like an understatement here. As Baumann points out, it's not clear what would constitute acceptable documentation of rape or incest — but whatever the case, being forced to provide it to an IRS agent sounds like a horrible experience. So horrible, in fact, that IRS employees might just refuse to enforce the law — one "IRS veteran" told Baumann, "You can't ask people to go out and ask some woman about what the circumstances are surrounding her abortion. They just won't do it."

They shouldn't have to make that decision — turning IRS agents into so-called "abortion cops" isn't just scary and anti-woman, it's also counter to the fiscal beliefs conservatives claim to espouse. Republicans initially claimed that the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act was about "fiscal restraint" — this was pretty clearly bullshit, and that's even clearer now. Writes Kevin Drum, also at Mother Jones, on pre-tax spending accounts:

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. [...] 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.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act shows a lack of concern not just for women's reproductive rights but for their fundamental psychological well-being, and it evinces a willingness to institute ridiculous and draconian measures in order to prove an ideological point. It's expected to pass the House easily.

GOP Bill Would Force IRS To Conduct Abortion Audits [Mother Jones]
The Limits Of Tax Jihadism [Mother Jones]