Proposed law would give taxpayers choice on abortion funding

BOSTON -- If a bill before state legislators becomes law, citizens in Massachusetts will have the choice to divert part of their taxes from funding abortions to saving the lives of abandoned babies.

Bill H. 2542 "An Act relative to taxation" would allow taxpayers the opportunity to indicate on their state tax return that they would like the portion of their taxes usually spent on government-funded abortions to instead fund a program that allows mothers to leave their babies safely with authorities at designated "baby safe haven" locations.

Geoffrey G. Diehl (R), the state representative of the Plymouth District covering Abington, Whitman and East Bridgewater, drafted and sponsored the bill with support from Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

"It seems that the citizens of Massachusetts like to have choices. We feel like this is a good chance to put a choice at taxpaying time," said Diehl.

Co-sponsored by Representatives Peter Durant (R), John Rogers (D), Betty Poirier (R), James Dwyer (D), Jim Miceli (D), Colleen Garry (D), Jim Lyons (R), and Jay Barrows (R) the bill addresses advocacy for the unborn in a new way, by addressing the right of a taxpayer to exercise conscience and discretion in their tax return.

Current law allows for funding to go to abortion after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in 1981 in Moe vs. Secretary of Administration and Finance that the "Massachusetts Declaration of Rights affords a greater degree of protection to a woman's right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy by abortion than does the Federal Constitution."

The language of the bill does not define how to find the percentage a taxpayer could divert, but if, for example, 15 percent of all revenues generated under current taxes fund abortion, a taxpayer could potentially divert 15 percent from their individual taxes.

Diehl said tracking tax revenue funding for abortions could also be difficult.

"If you do follow the money trail, what happens is you will see that it will go to a state agency. But, what happens from there is that state agencies can award contracts or grants to non-profit corporations or other groups who are not beholden to reporting exactly what the expenditures go for," Diehl said.

He said despite possible loopholes, the bill will give still taxpayers the chance to promote life.

The Safe Haven Act of Massachusetts amended Chapter 119, by adding section 39 1/2 to create baby safe havens -- at places such as hospitals, fire departments, and police departments at dedicated sites throughout Massachusetts -- and to create a public awareness program so mothers can know how to safely place their baby in the care of the state at these sites.

President of MCFL Anne Fox said her organization wants to make the public aware of the new legislation for two reasons. The first relates to baby safe havens and directly impacts any mother in a crisis pregnancy.

"We want her to know that there are places that she can take the baby and the baby will be extremely well cared for, and she will not be penalized at all for doing that," Fox said.

Secondly, she said, many people -- including those in favor of legalized abortions -- are simply opposed to paying for abortion through tax dollars.

"This would be a chance for them to be sure that their tax money isn't being used for abortion, so it would be very good for them to know about it," she said.

Fox recommended that those interested in seeing the bill move forward contact lawmakers who represent them at the statehouse to ask the revenue committee -- where the bill is currently -- to take action.