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H.R. 219: No Abortion Bonds Act

Should tax-free bonds be used to help build abortion clinics?

Context

Since 1976, a legislative provision called the Hyde Amendment has prevented federal dollars from being used to provide abortions. It has routinely been extended under Republican, Democratic, and divided Congresses. (Since 1994, three narrow exceptions have been permitted: for cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake.)

However, a loophole has allowed federal dollars to be used to provide “abortion services,” even if not technically funding the actual medical procedure itself.

What the bill does

The No Abortion Bonds Act would discontinue federal tax-exempt bonds from being used to fund abortion clinics. Specifically, it would remove the tax-exempt status of any such bond.

It was introduced as bill H.R. 219 by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO8).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that a workaround exists which effectively circumvents a law that has routinely been renewed even by many pro-choice Democrats.

“For 42 years it has been law in this country that no federal funds can be used for abortion services,” Rep. Smith said in a press release. “Yet a loophole in the tax code remains, allowing abortion clinics to be built using federally subsidized tax-free bonds. The No Abortion Bonds Act would remedy this and take another step in the right direction to defend innocent life and protect vulnerable unborn children.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that Congress should end the Hyde Amendment and make it easier for women to access a right that the Supreme Court has affirmed as inherent since Roe v. Wade.

“Every woman deserves the right to make her own health care decisions regardless of her income, where she works, or where she gets her insurance,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) wrote in a 2017 press release.

“The Hyde Amendment doesn’t just impact low-income women who rely on Medicaid for their insurance coverage,” Schakowsky continued. “It denies abortion coverage to anyone receiving federally-subsidized insurance, women in the military, federal employees, women who get health care through the Indian Health Service, women who live in the District of Columbia, women in the Peace Corps, and others.”

Odds of passage

The bill has attracted 18 House cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the Ways and Means Committee, although its full passage is likely a nonstarter in the Democratic-controlled House.

Last updated Jan 10, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 3, 2019.


No Abortion Bonds Act

This bill imposes taxes on state and local bonds that are used to provide a facility owned or used (for any purpose) by an abortion provider for more than 30 days during a year in which interest is paid on the bond.

An entity is not considered an abortion provider solely as a result of performing abortions if (1) the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or (2) a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

The Department of the Treasury may exempt certain hospitals from being considered an abortion provider by making the name of the hospital available on Treasury's public website.