This story is sure to get people on both sides of the aisle fired up, specifically because of its relation to the controversial subject of abortion. In Michigan, lawmakers are considering whether to allow a fetus that is at least 12 weeks along to qualify as a "dependent," thus leading to income tax benefits for the parents of the unborn.
House Bills 5684 and 5685 are at the center of the debate, with critics claiming that their true intention is to place further restrictions on abortion in the state. However, state Rep. Jud Gilbert, a Republican, claims that there are other more practical ideals driving the bills' proposals.
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"You’re recognizing the fact that people have additional expenses, another person to take care of," Gilbert explained. "Money saved there could be contributed to doctor’s bills and all kinds of things."
The proposed bill (House Bill 5684) fully explains the parameters governing the tax exemption. It reads, in part:
DEPENDENT INCLUDES A FETUS THAT HAS, AS DETERMINED BY A PHYSICIAN, COMPLETED AT LEAST 12 WEEKS OF GESTATION AS OF THE LAST DAY OF THE TAX YEAR, AND THAT HAS BEEN UNDER THE CARE AND OBSERVATION OF A PHYSICIAN SINCE AT LEAST 12 WEEKS OF GESTATION. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION:
(A) "FETUS" MEANS AN INDIVIDUAL ORGANISM OF THE SPECIES HOMO SAPIENS AT ANY TIME BEFORE COMPLETE DELIVERY FROM A PREGNANT WOMAN.
(B) "PHYSICIAN" MEANS AN INDIVIDUAL LICENSED TO ENGAGE IN THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE OR THE PRACTICE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE AND SURGERY UNDER ARTICLE 15 OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH CODE...
If passed, it looks like Michigan will be the first state in the nation to recognize the unborn in such a manner. As MLive.com notes, the National Conference of State Legislatures is unaware of any other locality that allows fetuses to be claimed as dependents during tax season, however the issue has not been extensively examined, so other similar legislation is possibly in existence.
While Gilbert believes that the measure simply extends what's already in place to provide parents with up to $160 in savings, critics are less-than-pleased with the proposal. In addition to millions in lost revenue, the notion that Republicans are looking for a backdoor way to recognize the legal status of the unborn has come under attack.
According to WLNS-TV, the exemption is slated to be $3,950 for 2013 and $4,000 for 2014. The total cost may come in between $5 and $10 million per year.
"In our view these bills are an attempt to give some legal recognition to the unborn in tax law, which would then be used as a reason to give legal recognition to the unborn in other contexts such as in criminal law or in health law," claims Mary Pollock, legislative vice-president of the National Organization of Women's Michigan chapter.
Pollock's fear is that efforts will be made to then ban abortion at the 12-week mark -- something she and her organization would clearly oppose.
What do you think? Should parents be able to claim fetuses as tax exemptions? Take the poll: