A California lawmaker wants to give tax deductions for unborn children, piggybacking on a law passed last year to make pregnant minors eligible for welfare.
If fetuses deserve public aid, why not tax breaks?
Bakersfield Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove is pressing that question this week by proposing Assembly Bill 673, which would grant a $321 child income tax deduction for an "expected child."
Robert Smith, Grove's legislative director, said the bill is not specifically intended to spark new debate over California's failure to recognize a fetus as a person for abortion purposes, but it spotlights the current inconsistency.
"If it can drive the discussion, that's an issue we'd love to have a real substantive and honest discussion about," Smith said.
Grove opposes abortion.
Smith said the bill makes sense on another level, too, by encouraging families that struggle with the cost of living but want to have a child. Current law provides a timely deduction if a child is born Dec. 31, but not one day later, Smith said.
"While this bill may have good intentions, it brings up a host of issues regarding its practical application and its constitutionality," said Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood of California, in a written statement. "It's not good for California."
Last year's legislative decision to qualify a pregnant minor for welfare benefits upon verification of pregnancy was part of AB 1640. Grove voted no on the measure, which ultimately was signed into law.
Once California set the precedent that a fetus should be eligible for welfare payments, the "logical next step" is that it should be recognized for income tax deductions, too, Smith said.
Last year's bill essentially recognized that "a woman is indeed carrying a human being, regardless of how far along she is in her pregnancy," Grove said in a written statement. "My bill, AB 673, applies this precedent to child tax credits as well."
Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat who proposed last year's measure, AB 1640, declined to comment on Grove's new proposal.
Neither the state Department of Finance nor Grove's office has estimated what AB 673 would cost the state in tax deductions. A financial analysis will be conducted as the bill moves through the Legislature.
California reported 502,023 births in 2011, an average of 41,835 per month. Many pregnant women would not benefit from AB 673, however, because not everyone files income taxes, and of those who do, many do not have incomes high enough to take the entire $321 deduction.
Family law attorney John Myers, of McGeorge School of Law, said he does not think that passage of AB 673 would be "an inroad against abortion."
California currently allows homicide to be charged in the death of a fetus, so there is precedent for legal recognition, Myers noted.
"Given that our most serious criminal offense includes the unborn and does not impair abortion rights, one would be hard-pressed, it seems to me, to see how this (bill) would, other than some tiny incremental argument that a fetus is a person," he said.