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House Panel Votes to Exclude Abortion From Health Tax Breaks

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- The House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that would prevent women from using tax benefits for health care to cover the cost of abortions.

The 22-14 vote today sends the bill to the full U.S. House of Representatives, which plans to consider the measure before the House leaves Washington on April 15 for its next recess, according to Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The committee vote was along party lines, with all 22 panel Republicans voting in favor and all 14 Democrats who were present voting against the measure.

“We make sure that the destruction of an innocent human life is not something that is subsidized by this government,” said Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican.

The tax bill is part of a broader effort by Republicans who took control of the House this year to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion.

The legislation would bar women from using abortion costs to claim deductions for medical expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. They also couldn’t receive tax credits established under last year’s health-care law for insurance if it includes abortion coverage.

Paying for Abortion

The bill also would prevent women from using tax-advantaged health savings accounts and flexible spending arrangements to pay for abortions.

The measure doesn’t address the two largest tax breaks for health care. Even if it passes, employers could still deduct the costs of health insurance that covers abortion and employees could receive such coverage without its value counting as taxable income.

The limits in the measure don’t apply to abortions that save the mother’s life or to abortions that terminate pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

It’s an “open question” whether the bill would consider the use of the morning-after pill as an abortion, said Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Congressional scorekeepers estimate that the bill would have a negligible effect on government revenue collection.

Democrats criticized the proposal, maintaining that it would hurt low-income women.

“I regret that it takes away from our attention and our shared goals of job creation and tax reform,” said Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat.

A separate bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee would make permanent a ban on using government spending programs to pay for abortions. Congress has routinely passed such limitations as part of annual spending bills.

Republican tax writers criticized the ambiguous tax language in that measure, sponsored by Republican Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey. Instead, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, backed the separate bill that his panel approved today. Camp said today that he was trying to protect the committee’s jurisdiction over tax policy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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