Just How Wide Is The Reach Of HR #3? --- VERY WIDE

I am new to Crooks and Liars. Last Friday when Open Left, where I had blogged previously, sadly closed down, John emailed me that very afternoon to ask me to blog here. My answer was that "I would be thrilled," and so I am.

I have had decades of activism and involvement in women's rights women's abortion rights. Abortion rights are absolutely the integral to the ideas and attainment of freedom and equality for women. Without them, they can not be free or equal, or even safe.

This is part 3 of my series on HR #3 which I began at Open Left. Given the rapid onslaught of anti-abortion legislation being produced by the radical Republican right (the only jobs they seem to be producing are for clerks who have to write up the legislation), I will be writing more. Here are the prior two posts in this series.

An Anti Abortion Bill and lots, lots more

HR #3: The Whole Bill is Rape - Not Just the Rape Provision

David Waldman (aka KagroX) wrote an excellent post at Daily Kos last about just how potentially big a net the theory underlying this bill could cast. Very wide, wide enough to get a whale.

It's titled, "H.R. 3 hides even bigger dangers than redefinition of rape". Again I quote him:

" Take the rape provisions out, and you're left with a bill that paves the way for using the tax code to select every American's health care options for them, direct from Washington."

The bill lays the groundwork for the radical right to target every social and economic advance that they don't like. And they don't like much. They are redefining the purpose of the tax code. Taxes are meant to raise money and to apportion fairly the burdens and benefits of government. Taxes have been used to promote innovation like the R&D credit. Or not, like the oil depletion allowance or agricultural subsidies. The tax code has been used to allow religious groups to sustain their mission - to worship and to make the world a better place.

The tax code, as we can see from the church/synagogue/mosque-friendly provisions, have long served social goals as well. But that can now be used to go after social goods.

More after the fold from me and I quote David

In H.R. 3, Republicans revive the mid-90s "Istook amendment" theory of the fungibility of money to include under their definition of "taxpayer funding for abortion" all tax deductions, credits or other benefits for the cost of health insurance, when that insurance includes under its plan coverage for abortion.
So if a company provides health care benefits for its employees, and the plan they pay for includes coverage for abortion, the company becomes ineligible for the normal federal tax deductions and credits that are the usual reward for providing benefits. That's a gigantic tax increase. If you pay for your own coverage directly, no deductions, credits, etc. for you, either, if the plan you select offers abortion coverage. Whether you or someone on your plan ever gets one or not. All deductions associated with your health care costs are disallowed.

That, apparently, will impact approximately 87 percent of private insurance plans on the market today.

That would be a huge tax increase. So they would be using a tax increase to bring about one social change they have long pursued. But they can now pursue the same in many other areas. What are some of them?

Next let's count the ways that the right in general -- first led by their anti-abortion zealots -- could target the social, political and economic goods they don't like.

Again I quote David first who said this ( via email)

If the anti-choice zealots can successfully enact a law that gives the federal government the inroads and leverage to impose tax penalties on the availability of abortion services coverage, what prevents their using the same power to penalize contraception coverage? And that's just the smallest theoretical step you can make from the abortion issue. Nevermind that the theory is the same whether they want to reach into other areas of medical coverage, or anything else they'd like to get their hands on? Same sex partner benefits, for instance? You can all certainly imagine more.

And you should try to imagine them. I would encourage you to try to think about how they could come up with a way to burn your own favorite issue group, no matter what it might be. Because this theory gives them the power to do it.

Some more but not limited to :

Unions - they can go after union health benefits

Environmental - It can be used to target green energy initiatives of all kinds..from solar panels on your roof or your company's roof to putting better insulation into your homes or an office building. These guys think global warming is just a hoax. Why should your taxes fund a hoax?

Medical - they can go after all sorts of medical deductions - like people who use fertility drugs or get HIV medicine under the theory that they disapprove of homosexuality, even chiropractors or any other medical advances they think goes too far. It puts them between you and your choice of a doctor. The AMA, nurses and hospitals, even midwives should be alarmed.

Hospitals: If money is fungible... Federal money like Medicare or the PPACA, the Affordable Care Act, funds goes to hospitals. They go to hospitals for providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients or to patients under the exchanges (to come) or now with the High Risk pools . But what if hospitals perform abortions or do in vitro fertilization or have researchers who are on staff do stem cell research elsewhere? Well this theory permits, no mandates that those federal funds, Medicare and Medicaid funds, could be at the very least withheld or even clawed back? Public money has just permitted that hospital to spend other money, so of course this is a perfect place to go after next. ( Indeed when I report on the two hearings on

HR #3 and HR #358 we will see the particular mechanisms they are using in this bill to target hospitals). Hospitals not only protect patients from the harassment they have been subjected to at private clinics, but most crucially, hospitals are the only way to train interns and residents in how to provide SAFE abortions.

States: Or what about the 17 states thay fund abortions fo poor women with their own state funds? Actually in HR #3, Section311(c)(A) and (B) would allow actions to be brought in

"The Courts"...to prevent and redress actual and threatened violations of this section

Via (A) injunctive relief or (B) or to prevent disbursement of federal funds to state or local governments, to an agency or to any program of a State or local government. That seems to be pretty complete and those states that provide Medicaid funding could very well have those programs in jeopardy. ( This seems in HR #3 to be premised on the violation of what they call the non discrimination clause...)

Religious - good way to go after building programs they don't like or religions they don't like. You would think this alone would give them pause. And it could boomerang against them. A

And as Congressman Nadler said in the hearings on HR #3, if the tax benefits for abortion are considered federal funds, then any and all benefits a religious institution would receive would be the same. Which would of course be a violation of the First Amendment ( a lot better Amendment than Hyde) establishment of religion prohibition and therefore the tax status of the Catholic Church or a Synagogue or a Mosque would have to disappear.

Actually since the tax code touches many parts of our lives, I am sure, just like creative accountants find ways around it, that creative right wing legislators could comb through it to prohibit any activity of which they disapprove. Then this country will begin to measure up or down to their cramped "values"

As Jessica Arons pointed out in her piece I first posted

What's more, H.R. 3 would redefine the concept of government funding far beyond the current common understanding. It does not simply prohibit the use of federal funds to directly pay for abortion. Instead, it would insert itself into every crevice of government activity and prohibit even private and nonfederal government funds from being spent on any activity related to the provision of abortion any time federal money is involved in funding or subsidizing other, nonabortion-related activities.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of thinking would prohibit roads built with federal funds from passing by abortion clinics, drugs developed by the National Institutes of Health or approved by the Food and Drug Administration from being used at abortion clinics, or medical students with government loans from receiving abortion training-all because such uses could be viewed as "subsidizing" abortion with federal dollars.

Even those who agree with the notion that the government should not fund abortion should be wary of the Smith bill, as it would set a dangerous precedent for government spending in areas well beyond abortion. For instance, if its reasoning were extended, religious institutions and faith-based organizations could not obtain tax-exempt status, receive government vouchers to run schools, or accept government funding to carry out secular activities because such government involvement could be viewed as "subsidizing" religious activities and violating the constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state.

So this bill is so dangerous to private lives and private decisions that a very broad coalition shoud come together to fight it. It is even potentially inimical to the interests and values of libertarians and even Tea Partier, s that even they should together join this coalition to stop this bill from passing.

Could this bill pass? Well was it hoped that under a new, pro choice Democratic president that advances on abortion rights were finally coming up to bat. So was it contemplated in October 2009 that, under a Democratic president, restrictions on abortion could pass in the health care bill? We have a template for our answer. Yes it could pass. There are many ways to get a bill to the floor of the Senate without Harry Reid doing it himself.

Digby said:

Democrats.....{are} failing to engage on the real issue the Republicans are targeting, which is a further restriction on abortion rights and the final codification of Hyde. And as usual, I have to wonder if they can possibly be this dumb or if they are preparing to cave as part of their ongoing quixotic strategy to find "common ground" going into 2012. Indeed, considering the president's comments about "tradition" I have to think he would be more than willing to entertain a bipartisan agreement on this issue. There is no reason to believe that he won't sign the bill.

Remember when they said no way would the House Republican's repeal of the health care bill ever reach the floor of the Senate? Well yesterday it reached the floor of the Senate via an amendment to the FAA authoirization bill. The same amendment route could bring HR #3 to the floor. Fortunately the president has made it very clear to his own party that there was no point in voting with the Republilcans because he would veto it. So it lost. Would this bill have the same promise of a presidential disapproval and veto? So far no luck in that regard.

Chris Bowers in the press availablity with David Axelrad got this response when he asked:

Q Next week the House is going to pass a bill called the No Taxpayer-funded Abortion Act. And there's a not insignificant chance it will pass the Senate as well. What would President Obama do if that got to his desk?

MR. AXELROD: Well, you know it is unfortunate that the health care debate has now shifted there. We've got a lot of challenges that we need to deal with, primary challenges that we're facing -- the economy -- and the President outlined some of them last night. Obviously this is a very divisive issue. And one would hope that we don't take that path and repeat old debates and divisions to the exclusion of dealing with things that are so fundamental right now for the country on which there's some consensus.

So I haven't seen -- I don't know what exactly will pass Congress. Obviously, his position on this issue is well known. And we believe that it was addressed responsibly in the health care bill in the first place. But I mean, I just don't know what's coming, so it would probably be precipitous of me to say -- to even accept your hypothesis that it's going to arrive.

Axelrad would have said the same of the helath care repeal bill.

So if the president is standing on the sidelines or maybe even looking for bipartisan comity what are the prospects for passage? Many members of the House in the hearings of the last two days have expressed faith that the president would never sign such a bill. But silence from the WH can only allow the right wing to keep quoting him, as they did over and over again in the hearings, that he would agree with them as he has stated a significant number of times that prohibition of federal funds for abortion is a "tradition". Me, I thought that was either a song from Fiddler on the Roof or turkey at Thanksgiving.

What happened to the health care bill battle?

Recall that during the health care debate, the champions of the choice community in Congress were convinced to jump out of the way of the eventual Stupak/Nelson driven "compromise" language on the theory that it went no further than Hyde, and that Congress had become used to passing Hyde amendments, anyway, so why endanger the health care bill by objecting now?

The proponents of H.R. 3 make the false (but possibly attractive) argument that this "just codifies" Hyde, and since pro-choice champions once agreed to get out of the way of such measures, they might as well agree to do so again. I'm not so sure that the Senate wouldn't jump out of the way again, on precisely that theory. There's a far better chance of it being blocked as a stand-alone measure, of course. But that would almost certainly not be the end of it. It'd come up as an amendment time and time again. Just see how quickly Republicans in the Senate got a vote on total health care repeal even after Democrats comfortably insisted that that could never happen. The same play would work for H.R. 3.

We need a broad, vigilant coalition that understands that, while for the moment this may seem to just target abortion by "just codifying the Hyde Amendment", the pivot to target other values, goals, benefits etc would be easy and probably pretty quick. Since the basis for this bill is the Hyde Amendment, we should to defend our rights is to go on offense.

The Hyde Amendment is wrong. The principle it espouses it wrong. It is based on the idea that only women can be excluded from all the positive rights that we as citizens have. It began as a measure aimed at the most vulnerable target - poor women . We have let Hyde alone for 30 years. It did not go fallow. It has sprouted terrible new seeds. Not going after the Hyde Amendment has opened a huge back door to going after the rights of eveyone else. It always seems most expedient to fight the immediate fight in front of you, to limit yourself to the resources at hand. But the right wing, especially the anti choice contingent doesn't do that. They have planned ahead. They have thought big and long. They may start small and build inroads, but all the while never conceding that main point - that no one should ever be allowed to have an abortion,

REPEAL THE HYDE AMENDMENT. One of the most famous strategists in the world, von Clausewitz, would tell us:

"The best defense is a good offense


When one doesn't defend the rights of those most oppressed, it eventually imperils the rights of us all.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.