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AUL Fact Check on Abortion Under Fire by Dana Goldstein (The Daily Beast, 11.1.09)

In her blog entry on The Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein records pro-abortion leader Judy Waxman’s incredible statement that the new House health care bill, H.R. 3962, “leans toward the pro-life position.”  To support this conclusion Goldstein’s entry relies on statements from several abortion rights advocates.  However, the current version of the House bill is neither “pro-life,” nor “abortion neutral.”  H.R. 3962 attempts to mainstream abortion as health care and have the federal government pay for it.  It is a radical departure from current federal law.

Below are four assertions made in Goldstein’s post followed by AUL’s responses demonstrating the statements are false and misleading.

1. The House bill requires the public-insurance option, expected to cover some 6 million people, to provide abortion primarily in cases of rape, incest, or threats to a woman’s physical health. That limited language echoes the Hyde Amendment, a rider to the appropriations bill that has passed each year since 1976 and currently prevents federal funding of most abortion for Medicaid patients, government employees, Peace Corps workers, and women in prison. But because the House health bill actually cements the restriction in law (as opposed to in a rider) some pro-choicers see the provision as a step backward. “It establishes a different baseline,” Waxman said.

The House bill does not echo the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions.  The language of H.R. 3962 is only “limited” in the sense that on its face the bill mandates only coverage in the public option of those Hyde-permitted abortions (in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother). H.R. 3962 does not prohibit funding other abortions and in fact explicitly allows the HHS Secretary to include all abortions in the public option. (Section 222(e)(3)).

H.R. 3962 does establish a different baseline, but not in the way Waxman describes.  It changes the status quo from prohibiting federal funding of abortion (except in narrowly defined categories) to allowing the use of federal dollars to finance all abortions in the public option.  And, since the decision would be made by pro-abortion HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, it is likely that Section 222(e)(3) will be used to extend the abortion funding mandate to cover all abortions.

What will be cemented through H.R. 3962 is exactly the opposite of the Hyde Amendment, which has passed every year for 33 years.  Instead of codifying restrictions on abortion funding, H.R. 3962 codifies an abortion funding mandate.

2. The bill also prevents affordability credits from being used to pay for abortion coverage: Eighty-seven percent of existing private insurance plans cover abortion. After reform, if insurers want to continue to provide such care, the House bill would require them to segregate all government funding from the co-pays individuals pay into the plans. Abortions could only be paid for out of the “private” side of the ledger.

The bill allows private health insurance plans that cover elective abortion to receive government subsidies (Section 222(e)(2)) The bill includes language purporting to segregate “federal dollars” from “private dollars” that are used to pay for abortions (Sections 303(e)(2); 341(c)(3)),  but nothing alters the fact that this provision allows government dollars to go to private plans that cover abortion.

This is not a “pro-life” or even “abortion neutral” provision.  It changes the status quo on federal funds being used towards insurance plans that provide abortion coverage.  In the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the government contributes to premiums of federal employees in order to allow them to purchase private health insurance. The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that provides funding for the FEHB program has annually prohibited these government contributions from being used towards insurance plans that cover abortion since 1983 (with the exception of 1993-1995).

3. In addition, in each state, the health-insurance market must include one plan that does cover abortion, and one plan that does not. But because the vast majority of insurers currently do cover the procedure, pro-choicers view the provision as a step forward for the opposition. “That kind of leans toward the pro-life position,” Waxman said.

The bill does require that there be one insurance company in each region that does not directly reimburse for abortion.  However, calling this measure pro-life leaning ignores the fact that for the first time the government is mandating that there be a private insurance company that does provide abortion coverage in each region.

Another provision of H.R. 3962 severely limits the extent an insurance company is allowed to be “pro-life.” Sec. 304(d) prevents any private insurance company participating in the Exchange from choosing not to contract with abortion providers.

4. Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues, told The Daily Beast, “Currently, it’s not that we can’t pay for coverage that includes abortions. It’s that we can’t cover abortions. The [Stupak] standard is stricter than the standard in Hyde.”

The “Stupak standard” is not stricter than current federal law.  No federal dollars are used to pay for elective abortions or to subsidize insurance plans that cover abortions, period. That includes Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and other programs. As explained above, insurance plans that include abortion coverage cannot receive government subsidies through the FEHBP.  In other words, federal employees cannot choose plans that include abortion coverage.

The status quo is that federal dollars do not pay for abortions and that federal dollars do not subsidize insurance plans that include abortion coverage.

Sonfield was correct when he stated “Just because there are a lot more Democrats than Republicans doesn’t mean there are a lot more pro-choice people.” There are a number of pro-life Democrats in Congress who disagree with their Party’s platform on abortion.  A similar observation can be made about the American public — a majority of Americans identify themselves as “pro-life.”

It is important to note that an even greater majority of Americans do not support federal funding of abortion.  Opposing federal subsidies for abortion is not just a “pro-life” position.

H.R. 3962’s abortion funding provisions are not what the majority of Americans want. They are not what President Obama promised in September when he told a joint session of Congress, “under our plan no federal dollars would be used to fund abortion.”  They are not “pro-life” leaning.