I am writing to express disgust at the hypocrisy of Rep. Robert Pittenger’s highly misleading Nov. 3, 2017, opinion piece advertising his “No Abortion Bonds Act.” Rep. Pittenger claims that federal taxpayer funds are being used to fund abortion through tax-exempt municipal bonds in violation of the 1976 Hyde Amendment. He argues, ”the federal government loses billions in revenue on tax-exempt bonds.” Pittenger fails to mention, however, that municipal bonds used to renovate Planned Parenthood are a tiny drop in the ocean of tax-exempt bonds. In fact, only four such municipal bonds were issued between 2006 and 2016, and the face value of those four bonds add up to less than one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the municipal bonds issued in 2016 alone.
Moreover, many investors purchase a municipal bond for the tax-exempt stream of income, not for the underlying project the bond is intended to fund. If they did not buy these bonds, they would buy others, and the federal government’s revenue would not change. Thus, Mr. Pittenger fails to show how these municipal bonds violate the unjust Hyde Amendment; a law that singles out abortion as the only medical procedure ineligible for coverage through any federally funded program purely for the purpose of denying poor people access to legal abortions.
The real hypocrisy of Pittenger’s argument lies in the fact that municipal bonds are voted on by the citizens of the states and cities that issue the bonds. Presumably the voters in the four states that issued municipal bonds to help renovate Planned Parenthood facilities (New York, Illinois, Florida and Massachusetts) supported women’s reproductive freedom – or at least were aware that only 3 percent of the health-care Planned Parenthood provides is abortion-related. What business does a congressman from North Carolina have in telling those four states how to spend the money they borrow? Rep. Pittenger supported “The American Health Care Act”, which gave the states the right to decide the coverage that health insurance plans issued in their state would offer. Pittenger suggested that if sick people live in states that do not cover pre-existing conditions, they should just move. Evidently Mr. Pittenger feels that states should have the right to deny insurance coverage to their sick citizens, but not to spend municipal bond money in the manner that their voters approve.
Given his claimed concern for children, we can expect that Mr. Pittenger will oppose the GOP tax plan, which cuts the deduction for adoption, student loans and medical expenses; makes certain child and family tax credits nonrefundable (and therefore not helpful to low-income families); cuts employer child care tax credits; and makes all these cuts to programs that would help poor children in order to do away with the estate tax for very wealthy families, among other things. Given Mr. Pittenger’s great concern for the American taxpayer, we can assume that he would also oppose the GOP tax plan because it adds trillions of dollars to the federal debt.
We also can look forward to Mr. Pittenger’s great love for children compelling him to support increased funding for nutrition programs, housing, education and child care. We can expect that his distress over the existence of safe and legal abortion to drive him to support providing birth control to low-income women free of cost and to expand teen pregnancy prevention programs. Perhaps Mr. Pittenger will also feel called to support federally funded maternity leave and universal pre-school.
In short, Pittenger’s “No Abortion Bonds Act” is an empty shell. It will save the federal government no money. It will hurt the ability of low income women to receive breast exams, cervical cancer screens, and STD testing. It will strip states of the ability to use borrowed funds in the way that their taxpayers want, and instead places federal government regulation over state and local finances. Mr. Pittenger’s proposed legislation is the worst kind of hypocrisy and should be opposed by any taxpayer who wants women to have access to health care and local governments to borrow funds without the federal government restricting how those funds can be spent.
Brooke Adams is president of Reproductive Rights Coalition of Charlotte.