Keeping up with the dizzying array of anti-choice legislation littering statehouses around the nation is a full-time job with no benefits. It’s estimated that more than 1,000 versions of bills restricting access to abortion were floated last session alone, ostensibly fulfilling Republicans’ loud and communal campaign promise of creating jobs – albeit only in the medical and legal fields.
Let’s give them partial credit for being progressive. Kansas’ GOP-dominated State Legislature has shown there are taxes the party can get behind. In a new and creative workaround, they’ve figured out that if they can’t shame or legislate abortion out of existence, by God they will stick it to amoral women and can make them pay – literally.
House Bill 2598 would tack on a sales tax to all devices and products used in the course of a surgical abortion, as well as disallow state income tax deductions for abortion services women pay for themselves.
Remember this is the party raising a huge stink over California’s attempts to make Amazon.com collect sales taxes from its customers, arguing it’s a mere broker and not a retailer. And there are countless manufactured products associated with medical and surgical procedures not related to abortion, ranging from Band-Aids to MRI machines, valued in the billions of dollars each year, completely exempt from taxes. They aren’t transparent or anything.
To be fair, there are a slew of moderate Republicans not on board with these increasingly austere measures. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, spoke publicly last week about her regrets after voting for an amendment to repeal President Obama’s mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception. It’s fair to criticize her Johnny-come-lately mea culpa, and yet unfair to pin this only on that side of the aisle. Democrats face the same pressures to conform, and often do.
But barring women from claiming state tax deductions if they pay out of pocket for terminations is especially malicious and punitive. Their objective is no mystery: This is a state-level version of the Hyde Amendment, which bans any use of Federal public funds for abortion services. How long before Kansas cities and counties start taxing abortion-seekers and providers out of existence?
One in four expectant women seeks an abortion. It is one of only two possible treatments for the medical condition known as “pregnancy,” neither of which is the default option. Pretending it’s analogous to a sinful version of plastic surgery or gastric bypass is absurd. And so is referring to pregnancy as a mere “inconvenience.” It doesn’t take a high I.Q. to guess which gender is most likely to jump on that ship.
Not that anti-choicers haven’t found unique ways to shutter access to abortion before. Also in Kansas, state regulations issued in 2011 mandated that abortion clinics (and only abortion clinics) be subject to the same infrastructural compliance thresholds as are hospitals. Yes, hospitals – the places where gurneys race down to the OR and patients are treated for acute life-threatening ailments that actually do require large janitorial closets and wide hallways. That was a nice try, Kansas. Sadly for you, a Federal judge stepped in and said “uh, no.”
Add to that the irony of “taxes-are-oppressive!” ideologues’ imposing laws requiring invasive vaginal probes of women who have already chosen to abort, in some convoluted attempt to dissuade women from aborting. What it actually does is turn hideously expensive radiologic imaging of early pregnancies into an obstetrical Rorschach test. Trust me, guys, you can’t see anything at ~8 weeks of gestation.
So here we are again, seeped in amusement over the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the party wanting government out of its lives, inserting itself into every known crevice of reproductive choice.
But the fiscal issue is fascinating. In their distorted, upside-down mindset, neoconservatives fancy taxation as punishment. That’s probably why they’re falling over themselves trying to levy them against women exercising their legal reproductive rights. Apparently laws forcing women to seek counseling at (unabashedly anti-abortion) “crisis pregnancy centers” and delaying access to the procedure for a day or three after already making up their minds (under the premise that adult females are, in truth, naïve and flighty children who don’t know their own minds) haven’t done the trick. Where women have a will, women will find a way.
I’ve joked with friends that the archaic waiting periods imposed by states on abortion-seekers are in need of expansion. Perhaps we should step in and help our male sexual partners to make sound choices. Let’s enact 72-hour waiting periods prior to intercourse, the timing of which would start at the first sign of erection.
They will thank us in the long run. And maybe they will encourage their cohorts to reconsider this insane legislative marathon in which zero tolerance for women’s autonomy stands with its arms stretched wide at the finish line.