If fetuses deserve public aid, why not tax breaks?
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. His boss, a Bakersfield Republican, opposes abortion.
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.
Last year's legislative decision to qualify a pregnant minor for welfare benefits upon verification of pregnancy was part of Assembly Bill 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. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood could not be reached immediately for comment.
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.
PHOTO CAPTION: A pregnant woman visits a Sutter County clinic. Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee file, 2008