While it may sound like something ripped straight from The Onion, Michigan Republican lawmakers really have proposed an amendment to the state tax code that would allow pregnant women to claim a fetus over 12 weeks old as a dependent and receive an estimated $160 tax break.
Though the authors of House Bill 5684 claim it grew out of concern for prenatal health, it isn’t really about helping pregnant women at all – it’s an attempt by anti-choice Republicans to endow a fetus with legal human rights.
This may seem like a cynical view of a generous gesture, but Lansing Republicans have given us good reason to question their motives regarding tax breaks involving children.
After all, these are the same people who just last year under Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder eliminated the $600 per child tax credit deduction and slashed the Earned Tax Income Credit for children from 20 percent to 6 percent, cuts which sent 9,000 Michigan children into poverty, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.
It would seem these lawmakers believe a fetus has more needs than a child outside its mother’s body, in which case I have to assume they’ve never met an actual child before.
The Grand Old Party’s care for the welfare of a fetus apparently has a value of approximately $160 and a shelf life of roughly nine months.
Once a fetus develops enough to be pushed into the cold world and become a bona fide human child, Republicans seem to think it should stop sucking on the teat of society, pull itself up by its adorable little bootstraps and contribute to its own care.
The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency estimates that HB 5684 would cost Michigan between $5 million to $10 million per year, most of which would go to women who can already afford prenatal care.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study on maternal care, the average billed cost of prenatal visits was more than $1,400 over nine months, which means the proposed tax deduction wouldn’t cover the out-of-pocket expenses even for women lucky enough to have health insurance.
Low-income women are much less likely to have been under the care of a physician since 12 weeks of gestation, as the bill requires, and would not qualify to receive the deduction.
At worst, the bill is thinly veiled, anti-choice legislation under the guise of a tax code amendment. At best, the bill would fail to provide anything to the low-income families who need it the most.
While it’s unlikely this bill will pass in the current session, it’s bound to pop back up in the future, along with new and perhaps someday more clever ways of attempting to define a fetus as a person, which could make it increasingly more difficult for women in Michigan to make their own reproductive choices.
In the meantime, it’s my hope that the fixation Michigan Republicans have on women’s bodies will lead them to embarrass themselves right out of office and far away from legislating the wombs of their female constituents.