WASHINGTON – A provision in a high-priority Republican bill would effectively hike taxes on private insurance plans that include abortion coverage, representing a significant threat to the pro-abortion-rights movement.

The provision is in Rep. Chris Smith's (R-NJ) measure HR 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act," which has 173 cosponsors and is up for consideration this week.

Among other things, it would eliminate tax incentives for businesses providing health care -- a major reason why many employers can afford to do so -- if the plans allow for abortion coverage. It would also remove medical tax deductions for individuals seeking to buy abortion-included insurance plans with their own money.

"This is consistent with our commitment that we are going to take away government funding for abortions," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters this week. "This is consistent with where most Americans are and consistent with reducing spending."

The effort is part of a larger GOP assault on abortion, framed by the party as an effort to ban federal funding for abortions. To this end, Republicans have recently come under fire from pro-abortion-rights advocates for attempts to alter the definition of rape (which they have since backed down on) and allow hospitals to deny abortions to women whose lives are in danger.

The measure has earned fierce opposition from Democrats and would face a tough, uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

New York Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler called the provision a "Republican tax increase." He said in a hearing that "this bill contains huge tax increases on families, businesses, and the self-employed if they spend their own money – let me repeat that: their own money – on abortion coverage or services."

"I am equally surprised to find out that my Republican colleagues think that a tax exemption or credit is a form of government funding," Nadler added, noting that the same logic would mean that churches and synagogues be stripped of tax exemptions as doing otherwise would reflect an establishment of religion.

[h/t Talking Points Memo]