41 Years Post-Roe: Rape Audits

January 22, 2014

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which affirmed every woman’s right to make her own decision about abortion. Since Roe, politicians at all levels of government have aimed – in many cases successfully – to chip away at reproductive freedom. One of the latest attempts is a bill called HR 7, which proponents claim would eliminate federal funding for abortion – something that has been prohibited for almost four decades. Here’s what you need to know about this bill and how to talk about it.


  • HR 7 is legislation that would end tax breaks currently available for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance if that health insurance covers abortion. The bill would also prohibit women from claiming abortion costs as a medical expense deduction on their taxes, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical necessity.
  • HR 7 is about abortion, but the heart of the issue is not whether abortion should be made illegal, but rather whether or not the Affordable Care Act pays for abortions with public money (it doesn’t). Because this concerns such a sensitive topic, it is important to connect with people’s feelings about abortion by first recognizing the complexity of the issue so you have the credibility to explain the policy issue at hand. Most Americans see abortion as a morally complex issue, and talkers are most persuasive when they can acknowledge that complexity.


Women have abortions for many different reasons. As Americans, we often disagree about those reasons, but we agree that it is better that each person be able to make her own decision.
Federal law has banned using federal funds for abortions since 1977 and the Affordable Care Act did not change that. If people want abortion coverage, they have to use their own money to pay for it.
9 in 10 employer-based insurance plans cover abortion, but some politicians want to force tax hikes on families and small businesses who choose those plans.
 This bill is known as the “rape audit” bill because it would force a rape victim who chooses not to carry her attacker’s baby to prove to the IRS she was raped or face a tax penalty.
If these politicians really cared about preventing abortions, they’d stop pushing these laws and start supporting policies that reduce unplanned pregnancies and support parents and babies.

 KEY:  Connect with your audience |  Make your case | Show how your opponents differ


  • The federal government does not pay for elective abortions and has not since 1977. The Hyde Amendment prohibited the Medicaid program from covering abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the woman. Obamacare doesn’t fund abortions either.
  • Some groups who oppose abortion have confirmed that Obamacare does not fund abortion. Others have taken a different approach. In fact, an Ohio group is involved in litigation challenging an Ohio law that forbids false campaign statements. The suit started because the group, Susan B. Anthony List, accused a Representative of voting for tax-payer funded abortions because of his vote in favor of Obamacare. After a judge ruled that Obamacare does not pay for abortion, the group has argued in court for the right to lie about it anyway.
  • An all-male subcommittee held a hearing on the legislation January 9th . On the 15th, the Judiciary Committee voted to report the bill to the House after denying all pro-choice amendments offered by Democrats. The House could vote on the bill as early as next week.
  • The bill would amount to a tax hike for women. If a woman wants health insurance with abortion coverage, this legislation would bar those health care plans from receiving any tax benefits. Additionally, women would no longer be allowed to deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses associated with abortion on their taxes.
  • Because the bill allows for exceptions in the cases of rape and incest, if enacted it could have the unintended consequence of forcing the IRS to conduct rape audits in cases where women seek tax deductions when they’ve had an abortion after being sexually assaulted. In reality, though, rape exceptions don’t work. Current federal law ostensibly allows exceptions for bans on Medicaid coverage of abortion services in the event of rape or incest but many women never get reimbursed and 1 in 4 end up carrying the pregnancy to term despite wanting to terminate the pregnancy.
  • 9 out of 10 employer-based insurance plans provide abortion coverage, but that’s changing. States across the country have been passing legislation to limit the access to abortion coverage. Even if HR 7 does not pass, access to abortion coverage is increasingly limited at the state level.
  • HR 7 contains an anti-federalist provision just for the District of Columbia. The law would permanently prohibit DC from spending its own local tax dollars to fund abortions for low-income women even though the residents of DC are largely opposed to the abortion ban.
  • Obamacare is good for women by making sure insurers provide coverage that help womenprevent unintended pregnancies and have healthy intended ones. It requires all insurance plans to cover maternity care and no-cost contraception. It also prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men, prevents insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and requires free domestic violence counseling.
  • Obamacare will save livesNearly 45,000 people died each year simply because they lacked health insurance in the years before Obamacare. Expanding affordable health care coverage will go a long way in reducing that statistic.
  • The bill contains provisions that would:
    • Prohibit individuals and small businesses from qualifying for tax credits or insurance premium assistance for any health care plans that cover abortion services. That means that none of these plans would be eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies designed to make health insurance affordable.
    • Prohibit abortion coverage in any health care service furnished by the federal government or the District of Columbia, or by any doctors employed by the federal government or the District. The Hyde Amendment already prevents federal funding of abortions for Medicaid recipients, meaning this provision is probably redundant. Sadly, this long-standing policy punishes low-income women: 3 in 4 women seeking abortions cite financial difficulties as a leading reason for their choice.
    • Make the Hyde Amendment permanent by prohibiting federal funds from being used on health insurance that includes abortion coverage, without requiring yearly renewals.
    • Prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its funds on abortion or health insurance that covers abortion.
    • Disqualify abortion costs as a medical expense for tax purposes.
    • Provide exceptions for rape and incest or if the pregnant woman faces a risk of death without abortion.
Category: Health Care Women