political convention

political convention

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington In a Teacup

If you visit the website of Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey you’ll meet a genial politician who spends time with constituents and who has proposed legislation on adoption, healthcare research, and aid to torture victims abroad. Mr. Smith is in his 16th term in the House, which is more than 30 years, so he’s no Tea Party newcomer. Nevertheless, he's a vehement opponent of women’s privacy and reproductive rights. Most recently he's authored a bill that is so egregious that it's shocking. But 221 co-sponsors have signed on in support so it’s expected to easily pass the House.   

The proposed law, House Bill 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, prohibits using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or for health insurance that covers abortion.  Enforcement of this rule would fall to the Internal Revenue Service.  IRS agents would be empowered to interrogate a taxpayer about whether her aborted pregnancy was due to “forcible rape” or incest and whether it was life threatening.  These circumstances might exempt her from the law’s restrictions.  But the burden of proof would fall on the taxpayer, so like any other tax deduction issue she would have to supply evidence supporting her claim. Private medical records, hospital receipts and paternity information might have to be presented in a troubling and embarrassing encounter with a stranger.  Use of the term “forcible rape” in the law might require a woman to prove that violence was used against her or that she had physically resisted.

Rep. Smith and his Republican and Tea Party co-sponsors seem unmoved by these concerns.  House Speaker John Boehner has listed the bill as a top congressional priority. 

Meanwhile, it’s instructive to take a look at one of Rep. Smith’s signature pieces of legislation from the past, the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998.  The act “Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide grants to U.S. programs to cover the costs of services for: (1) the rehabilitation of victims of torture, including treatment of the physical and psychological effects of torture; (2) social and legal services for victims of torture; and (3) research and training for health care providers...."

In contrast to this bill, Mr. Smith’s latest legislation enables psychological abuse of American women, makes it difficult for victims of physical attack to get medical treatment, and has as its main objective preventing victims from obtaining money to pay for healthcare services that will contribute to their mental and physical recovery. 

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