Michigan Legislature Considers Tax Exemption for Fetuses

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Michigan legislators revisited two controversial bills submitted by State Reps. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto) and Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac) on Tuesday. The two bills, House Bill 5684 and House Bill 5685, would alter Michigan's tax code to allow residents to claim a tax exemption for fetuses who have reached 12 weeks gestation or more before Dec. 31 of any given year.

According to a summary by the House Fiscal Agency, the bills would cost the state between $5 million and $10 million per year in lost income taxes. The agency also made note in its report that the two bills are "tie-barred" together, meaning that both must be passed by the state legislature or neither becomes law.

Here is some of the key information to emerge on Tuesday regarding these two bills.

* House Bill 5684 and House Bill 5685 were initially introduced in May of this year by Lyons and Gilbert, but are now resurfacing as the state Legislature prepares to begin its last session of the year.

* According to a report on the bills by local news station WLNS, if passed this new legislation would allow people to claim a tax exemption for any fetus that has reached 12 weeks gestation or more by Dec. 31 of any given year by allowing individuals or families to claim that fetus as a dependent on their tax returns.

* The bill requires that the age of the fetus must be determined by a doctor before the tax credit can be claimed.

* MLive reported that the bills were the subject of a hearing by the state House Tax Policy Committee on Tuesday.

* Any bills or legislative measures that are not passed by the Michigan Legislature by Dec. 31 each year are forfeited, and must be rewritten and resubmitted during the next legislative session the following year if they are to be considered again.

* Gilbert said on Tuesday that if passed, Michigan would be the first state to implement such legislation, telling MLive that the bills aimed to recognize "the fact that people have additional expenses, another person to take care of," in terms of the unborn fetus.

* MLive and other media outlets reported that critics of the bill are targeting it as a potential precursor to anti-abortion legislation in the state. One such critic, Mary Pollock of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization of Women, told MLive on Tuesday that the fact that the bills target the state's tax codes is "a not so subtle reason to establish personhood for a fetus at 12 weeks gestation so that abortion could be banned or punished thereafter."

* The Detroit News noted on Tuesday that if passed, the bills would allow an individual or family to claim a tax exemption for a fetus that is 12 weeks gestation or older of some $3,950 on their 2013 tax returns.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in politics and public issues.

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