Adoption tax credit bill advances pro-life stance

By:  Senator Bob Casey

I am a pro-life senator. In six and a half years, I have cast more than 20 pro-life votes in committee and on the Senate floor.

I believe that life begins at conception and ends when we draw our last breath and that we must protect and nurture life at every point in that process. My actions as a United States senator have been consistent with this philosophy.

I have voted against federal funding of stem cell research, which would destroy living embryos, despite facing extraordinary pressure from across the political spectrum to vote the other way.

I have voted to codify the current federal regulation that provides unborn children with health coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program.

I have voted to prohibit funding to organizations that support coercive abortions. I have voted to prohibit circumvention of parental involvement in abortion decisions.

I have consistently supported the Hyde Amendment and the Helms Amendment regarding federal funding of abortions or abortion-related services, and have authored legislation to make the Hyde Amendment permanent.

I worked closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith groups to introduce the Pregnant Women's Support Act. The Pregnancy Assistance Fund, based on this legislation, has been enacted into law. This program is currently funding efforts in 17 states to develop and implement activities to support pregnant and parenting teens and young women.

This legislation was designed to reduce the number of abortions by providing health care, education, counseling, nutrition, prenatal care and information for women who are pregnant.

I also support federal funding of family planning programs because they reduce the number of abortions.

Abortion remains one of the most difficult and contentious issues facing our nation. One obvious alternative to abortion is adoption. However, adoption can be prohibitively expensive.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of all adopted children live in families with an annual household income at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Despite the common misperception that only wealthy families adopt, nearly 46 percent of families adopting from foster care are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Many of these families' tax burdens are so low that they cannot benefit from the adoption tax credit at all unless it is refundable.

That is why last week I introduced the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act. This measure builds on provisions I championed which were signed into law in 2010 but expired in 2012. The increased adoption tax credit was recently made permanent, and now it is essential that we make it refundable. My legislation will restore the refundability of the Adoption Tax Credit, enabling families who do not currently benefit from the entire tax credit because their income is too low to receive the full value of the tax credit.

Preliminary 2011 data indicate that nearly 62 percent of families who filed for the adoption tax credit benefited from refundability. Forty-one percent of families who benefited from refundability (25 percent of all families who took the tax credit) had adjusted gross income under $50,000.

These data indicate that a refundable adoption tax credit plays a significant role in lower-income families' ability to adopt and support a child from foster care. Data from a 2006 study cited by HHS demonstrate a significant financial benefit to society, as well: the cost of adoption and permanency is significantly lower than the cost to federal, state and local governments to provide long-term foster care.

I have consistently voted to support the longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion. In addition, we need to provide reasonable alternatives to promote life. We cannot simply call for an end to abortions and hope for the best. We need solutions that acknowledge difficult realities and support life beyond conception.