Wisconsin Republicans Try to Justify 1849 Abortion Ban With $1,000 Tax Credit for Fetuses
Sure, you may be forced by the state to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or potentially die in childbirth, but here’s $1,000 for your troubles.AbortionPolitics
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, Wisconsin has been living under a near-total abortion ban originally enacted in 1849. And while the election of a pro-choice judge to the state’s Supreme Court in April bodes well for the ban eventually being overturned, it seems Republicans in the legislature are scrambling to try and make the wildly unpopular pre-Civil War law more palatable with a new package of minuscule proposed amendments—one of which, Rolling Stone notes, is a $1,000 tax credit for embryos. That’s probably just enough to cover the first few sessions of therapy for the trauma of forced pregnancy.
Per the language of the bill, which is transparently meant to bolster support for a law that every single county voted to repeal, the credit would permit parents to claim an exemption on their tax returns for “unborn children for whom a fetal heartbeat has been detected.” Parents of “children” from embryos to the age of 17 can qualify parents to receive $700 to $1,000 per “child.” This legislative package comes after Wisconsin Republicans earlier this year defeated bills to add rape and incest exceptions to the 1849 law. So yes, Wisconsinites may be forced to deliver their rapists’ babies, but at least they’ll receive $1,000 for their troubles if they manage to survive the pregnancy and birth.
The proposed tax credit mirrors similar bills we’ve seen on the federal and state level that are just back-door ways to soft-launch fetal personhood—which confers legal personhood rights upon embryos at the expense of the pregnant person’s. In February 2022, House Republicans introduced the “Unborn Child Tax Credit.” And in July, within weeks of Roe being overturned, Senate Republicans introduced the “Unborn Child Support Act,” a bill that would require fathers to pay child support starting in the first month of someone’s pregnancy. Last summer, Georgia’s Department of Revenue announced parents could receive up to $3,000 for “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat,” which is surely enough to compensate for the long-term, devastating economic impacts of being denied abortion care. And in January, Oklahoma lawmakers proposed a bill requiring “the father or second parent of an unborn child” to pay “prenatal child support,” with the bill’s author specifying that “life begins at conception.”
Ironically, by advancing fetal personhood, these policies can directly lead to pregnant people being investigated and criminalized by the state for the outcomes of their pregnancies, which is already happening. In the last 50 years, there have been nearly 2,000 cases of people facing criminal charges for pregnancy loss or self-managed abortion. “If [pregnant people’s] rights are secondary to the fetus or at odds with the fetus, that lends to an environment in which violence—whether it’s state violence like imprisonment or interpersonal violence—can be committed against pregnant people with far less accountability,” a spokesperson for Pregnancy Justice told Jezebel.
Rolling Stone notes that the lawmaker behind Georgia’s “unborn” child tax credit says in a leaked video that the goal is to get policies like this “to the highest court in the land.” The Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe didn’t explicitly mention fetal personhood, but certainly opened the door for it—and that’s exactly the endgame anti-abortion lawmakers are sprinting toward, with help from legislation like the proposed tax credit in Wisconsin.