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The Tax Bill Includes Language Designed to Undermine Abortion Rights

Congress fall
Congress fall
Brian Tashman,
Former Deputy Division Director,
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November 14, 2017

The House is expected to vote this week on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and tucked in the legislation is language intended to advance an anti-choice agenda.

The House bill includes a provision that an “unborn child” can be designated as a beneficiary for 529 college saving accounts, defining “unborn child” as a “child in utero” at “any stage of development.”

This isn’t about making college savings plans more accessible — people can already start these savings accounts in their own names before they have children and transfer them to their kids later. This is about laying the foundation for attacks on a woman’s constitutionally protected right to abortion.

Lawmakers in Congress are now attempting to use a tax bill to advance an assault on women’s constitutional rights.

The reason this provision has been included is to incorporate language into federal law aimed at undermining Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion rights. It’s part of a larger strategy by opponents of abortion rights to chip away at the decision by establishing “fetal personhood.” In fact, opponents of abortion rights have already publicly applauded the provision as an important step in their agenda.

Those who want to overturn Roe have been pushing to establish fetal personhood for years, through legislation at both the state and federal levels. Voters have consistently rejected on state ballot referendums personhood measures that would ban abortion, but anti-choice activists are also attempting to insert language that reinforces the notion of fetal personhood into law wherever they can.

So this approach is nothing new. What is new is that lawmakers in Congress are now attempting to use a tax bill to advance this assault on women’s constitutional rights.

This may be because supporters of “personhood” measures have prominent champions in Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who both have cosponsored personhood bills. At the same time, the Trump administration has tried to undermine reproductive choice every chance it gets, from reinstituting the global gag rule to trying to hold pregnant women in immigration detention facilities hostage if they seek to obtain abortion care.

It’s perhaps not surprising that anti-choice proponents would use any vehicle — including the tax bill — to subvert the constitutional rights of women. But this attack is wrong, and the provision must be removed.

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