Culture of Conscience: Would You Pay Taxes that Fund Abortions if Hyde and Helms were Repealed?
by Thad Crouch
(see at the bottom for a link of a video of the author speaking the same content)
Taxes for Violence
This month, several pro-choice congressional representatives introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage bill to repeal the Hyde Amendment and allow federal funding for domestic abortion violence for any reason to any woman receiving federally funded health care or insurance. Some representatives also introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act to repeal the Helms Amendment and allow federal funding for international abortions.
Hopefully, these bills won’t pass. Yet it may prove helpful to consider how pro-life taxpayers might respond if Hyde and Helms were repealed. Such laws would violate not only the right to life; they would also violate the rights to freedom of conscience and religion.
Financial self-help author Vicki Robin says “Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for” when we work. This implies that our use of money is a use of our life energy. Forcing pro-lifers to put our lives’ energies toward violating unborn humans’ dignity is also a violation of our own consciences and human dignity.
Would you choose to risk prison and property seizures or comply with a law to pay for abortion violence?
Imagine how you might feel if your paycheck or home were seized to fund killing unborn humans in their mothers’ wombs. Would the fact that, if you paid your taxes, some would also go to some good, conscionable purposes make it ok for you?
Stop reading for a moment. Slowly take a deep breath. Think about it. Feel it.
We might be surprised as pro-lifers to learn how easily we could avail ourselves of experienced, practical advice and decades of wisdom from the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC).
Their experience shows that fear of what the IRS can do is greater than what they historically actually do to war tax resisters. The IRS doesn’t treat honest war tax resisters as evaders. There are always options to agree to an IRS payment plan, and only a few dozen out of tens of thousands of war tax resisters have been imprisoned in the last 60 years. Nearly all those incarcerations were for refusing to disclose assets, and that’s avoidable by invoking the Fifth Amendment.
Pro-lifers could take advantage of these. Yet – don’t begin a construction project without counting the costs. NWTRCC educates people to make their own conscientious decisions and teaches multiple methods of resistance.
There are legal methods such as living on a low untaxable income. There are also ways to reduce risk with illegal strategies, such as refusing to pay a symbolic amount or by putting would-be taxes in an escrow account that pays interest towards life-affirming projects. The latter allows one to withdraw those funds to avoid money or property seizures.
Many war tax resisters choose not to pay a significant percentage or perhaps even all of our taxes and instead redirect them to charities. Some of us change jobs, work as contractors, work under-the-table, and/or don’t use bank accounts to reduce risk. We find keeping our consciences clear and our life energy nonviolent worth the risk. Some of us transform IRS repercussions into opportunities for public witness, media coverage, and community support.
Pro-lifers could also introduce legislation to protect our freedoms of conscience and religion by using the model of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which advocates for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act. This will protect the First Amendment rights for those with deeply held moral or ethical beliefs – religious or not – about paying for war. If passed, such persons would not pay less in taxes. Instead, our taxes would go into a fund that Congress could budget for any non-military purposes.
The U.S. peace tax fund campaign has been going on since 1971. Two congressional-ordered U.S. Department of the Treasury studies showed that a peace tax fund would increase government revenue while protecting Americans’ freedom. Yet it has not become law.
Even though the government recognizes Conscientious Objection against participating in the military and killing in war — as long as it’s a deeply held sincere objection to participation in all wars without criteria designating which wars are ethically conscionable — it remains illegal to love one’s enemies and respect their lives while earning a livable income.
While the Hyde and Helms Amendments somewhat recognize how seriously many Americans object to federal funding of abortion, they don’t restrict state abortion funds. Since 16 states fund abortions, and 27 fund the death penalty, the Consistent Life Network suggests that possible future state referendums based on the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund could be used to protect conscience from state abortions and executions.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – versions of which also exist at the state level – declares that the government may not burden or restrict a person’s exercise of religion unless it demonstrates that the burden or restriction furthers a compelling government interest and is done through the least restrictive means.
The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) may more likely apply RFRA to abortion tax resisters than war tax resisters for two reasons.
- First, it may be more politically feasible in some states to pass a Pro-life Tax Fund into a law that finds its way to SCOTUS than passing a Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act.
- Second, the Supreme Court ruled that RFRA protects the religious freedom of Hobby Lobby from the government forcing them to pay insurance for employees’ birth control pills. Hobby Lobby asserted that any birth control method that kills human zygotes aborts humans. Here SCOTUS ruled that the conscience of a corporation, which is a legal person, is protected from killing an actual living human that SCOTUS does not recognize as a legal person.
Since Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., no war tax resistance case has appeared before SCOTUS, and perhaps not at any level of the U.S. judicial system. Perhaps such a case will one day appear in court. That case could argue that the government has no compelling interest since the Treasury found that a Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act would increase revenue.
Once RFRA does that, then one next logical avenue might be to create tax laws that comply with both a new RFRA precedent and existing SCOTUS precedents that eventually applied Conscientious Objection to military participation for those who object based on deeply held, sincere non-religious conscientious beliefs. Should not actual human persons have the same legal protections as a corporate “person” to object to paying for killing humans?
Culture of Conscience
Consider that the more our society can empathize with and support others’ freedom of conscience to refuse cooperation with violent or unjust behaviors, the more we can engender people’s growth from a limited ethic toward a more Consistent Life Ethic. Thus freedom of conscience is perhaps one of humanity’s most vital freedoms of choice.
Many of us campaign for a world without socially acceptable and legally permissible aggressive violence and struggle to build a society with a peace based on a justice rooted in respect for human life and dignity. A culture of conscience is a step toward that society. Supporting Hyde, Helms, and the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act is a step toward that culture of conscience.
For related posts, see:
Video of Thad Crouch with the same content as above: