August 30, 2014

Hearing on ‘benevolent’ tax credits becomes abortion, birth control debate

A hearing in the House Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on a proposal to extend so-called “benevolent” tax credits turned into a discussion about abortion and birth control on Tuesday.

Representative Genise Montecillo at a hearing of the House Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.  (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications.)

Representative Genise Montecillo at a hearing of the House Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications.)

The hearing was on a bill that would extend tax credits for donations to charitable causes, such as centers that help children in crisis, food banks and more. The debate regarded credits for pregnancy resource centers.

Pro-Choice Missouri Executive Director Pamela Sumners testified that a study revealed many of those centers giving inaccurate medical information regarding abortions and birth control.

“We know that what happens with some of these facilities is that you don’t get the proper information early on, there are delays and sometimes these delays will put people beyond the point at which they can legally get an abortion or put them in a position where the procedure will be more risky to them,” she says.

Sumners discussed some of the findings of that study.

“Sixty-nine percent of these facilities said that there was a link between abortion and hormonal birth control increasing infertility,” she says. “Ninety-two percent wouldn’t tell a woman where she could obtain birth control. Fifty-four percent stated or implied that condoms are less effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases than they are. Twenty-eight percent told women in their written materials that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.”

Sumners told lawmakers she wanted them to have the facts before they extended the credit benefitting those centers.

Missouri Catholic Conference spokesman Tyler McClay questioned the definition of what is “medically accurate.”

“I can show you studies that suggest that (abortion is a risk factor for breast cancer),” McClay says. “I can show you studies that say it is not a risk factor. So, I guess the question is, ‘What’s medically accurate?’ That’s going to be difficult to define, I think, in law. That would be my concern with that.”

Rep. Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) indicated she will offer an amendment to the bill to require that medical information provided by clinics be accurate.

See the legislation – HB 87.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) says the hearing on his bill about charitable tax credits was hijacked.

“That’s unfortunate because we’re trying to just accomplish something that is very good,” Burlison says. “There’s a lot of good that’s happened in all these benevolent tax credits.”

Barbara Brown-Johnson, president of the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers, testified to urge lawmakers to extend the “children in crisis” credit. She says at her center in Springfield, it yielded $534,000 in four years and over $240,000 in July and August, 2012 alone.

She says one thing it supports is forensic interviewers who interview children going through stressful situations.

“This little boy asked a different kind of question that we’d never been asked before,” Brown-Johnson says. “He looked at the interviewer and he said … he was eight … he said … ‘Yeah, I have a question.’ He said, ‘Can you tell me why people keep hurting me?’ That’s a question no child in Missouri or any state should ever have to ask.”

The legislation will come to a vote in the committee next week.