Tax Overhaul Bears Gifts for Conservatives, Including Rights for ‘Unborn’

Tucked away in the Republican tax plan are several provisions that have little to do with overhauling the tax code and more to do with ensuring conservative lawmakers vote for the legislation.

The 400-plus-page bill released Thursday includes changes that would codify the rights of “unborn children,” allow tax-exempt religious organizations to engage in political activities and impose hurdles for immigrants seeking to claim refundable tax credits.

President Trump has long sought to appeal to religious and social conservatives, many of whom were initially wary of the candidacy of a thrice-married Manhattan billionaire who had openly boasted of his sexual conquests and displayed little interest in church or the Christian faith.

At a Values Voter Summit meeting here last month, Mr. Trump said he was committed to “stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values” and said the country’s religious heritage would be “cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before.”

The tax bill seems to deliver on that front. Among the biggest wins for social conservatives is the inclusion of the words “unborn child” in the legislation.

The provision explicitly allows expectant parents to designate a “child in utero” as a beneficiary of a 529 plan.

Parents have long been able to set up 529 accounts for an unborn child, but the provision accomplishes what anti-abortion activists have long sought: It enshrines into federal law the recognition of the unborn.

“An unborn child means a child in utero,” the provision states. “A child in utero means a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion rights, said the addition of the words “unborn child” was a major victory for their movement.

“It is fantastic because the unborn child is appropriately represented in the tax code,” she said. “All of these things represent a serious commitment to treating the unborn child, as she or he should be, equal and protected in the eyes of the law.”

The bill also contains a sought-after change by the religious right: repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from engaging in political activity.

(Excerpted from New York Times 11/0/17)