Lawmakers in Kansas will consider next week a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would, among other things, levy sales taxes on any and all abortion procedures, related healthcare expenses and any company that might do business with an abortion provider -- a proposal that could bring millions into state coffers, or just force clinics to shut down.
"Why not slap a $100, $200, $300 tax on an abortion?" Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, the largest anti-abortion advocacy group in Kansas, asked Raw Story on Friday. "I'm completely against most forms of taxation, but abortion is such an abhorrent procedure, I would like to see it wiped out with a $2,000 or $3,000 tax on every abortion that happens in Kansas."
Massive in scope, H.B. 2598 includes provisions being considered in other states as well, like offering doctors immunity from malpractice lawsuits if they do not inform expectant mothers of prenatal health problems that could lead to an abortion; a removal of important tax credits provided to most healthcare institutions; requiring doctors to lie to patients by claiming that abortions may cause breast cancer; forcing women to hear the heartbeat of their fetus before an abortion; and even prohibiting state employees from contributing to the teaching of basic sexual health facts.
The sales tax, however -- an innocuous-sounding 6.5 percent -- is layered, effectively making it a repeating tax on every service rendered, every product purchased and every sale made in furtherance of an abortion. It also strips certain tax credits for companies that do business with women's health providers, making such requests a potentially costly proposition.
"This is a complete turnaround in this idea of small government," Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, told Raw Story. "Somebody spent hours, if not days, combing through the entire Kansas tax code to find every spot where you could possibly prevent abortion providers from being a non-profit healthcare provider. It's really amazing. The bill is 68 pages long. Somebody spent days trying to figure out how to manipulate the tax code to disqualify abortion providers. That is a level above and beyond what we have ever seen."
For individual women, it means financial penalties if a pregnancy must be terminated. The laws could also drive up the cost of abortions in the state, putting them out of reach for lower-income women. It could also make late term abortions to save the life of a mother, which can run up to $20,000, wholly cost prohibitive, even for middle class women.
Worse still, the bill's prohibitions on teaching medical students how to perform abortions could even prevent Kansas public universities from producing licensed gynecologists -- doctors who do much more than just facilitate the end of a pregnancy.
"This is the extreme nature of abortion politics in Kansas," Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator and lobbyist for pro-choice advocacy group Kansas Now, explained to Raw Story. "The problem for [anti-abortion groups] working on this bill is that they have become so greedy and cast that net so wide that they are passing legislation that stands in direct opposition of their stated no taxpayer funding for abortion. They are now passing legislation that does, indeed, make money for the state from abortion."
"The tax code is simply not the place for social and religious engineering," she added. "This is a very slippery slope here. What is next? Do we start taxing blood transfusions? Birth control? Drug treatment that is in opposition to some particular group's moral standings?"
For Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, the matter wasn't as cut-and-dry.
"There would be, sort-of a moral question there," he said. "You've got the state profiting from abortion the way I would think of gambling or tobacco, these kinds of things. Profiting off of people's bad decisions, but that's a bit morally problematic. But on the other hand, any measure that would tend to make abortion less profitable for the abortionists... is a good thing because we find that any time we can put some kind of brakes on the abortion industry, it tends to reduce abortion and save children."
"The idea that the taxpayers would be benefiting from abortion, yeah, that's rather troubling. But at the same time, it certainly would not increase abortion, and it would be taking some of those profits away from the abortion industry. So, there's not a direct participation in the industry."
It is not yet clear if the Senate will pass H.B. 2598, but the House appears likely to do so. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.