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Fact Check: Washington Post Gets Their Facts Wrong on Abortion in Health Care

An editorial in the Washington Post today asserted, “The controversy over abortion funding is similarly phony. Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is endangered. The House bill would leave that restriction in place. It would exclude abortion from the list of benefits that plans participating in the insurance exchange would be required to offer. Instead, the exchanges would have to include one plan that covers abortion, along with one that doesn’t. Even so, the plans that cover abortion would have to take steps to make sure that federal funds are segregated from those used to pay for abortions.”

The only thing “phony” about the abortion funding controversy are these repeated misleading statements claiming the bills in Congress, as proposed, would not use federal dollars to fund abortion.

“Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is endangered. The House bill would leave that restriction in place.”

The prohibition on federal funding of abortion, the Hyde Amendment, does not apply to H.R. 3962.

In fact, the abortion funding language of 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.

The language of H.R. 3962 on its face mandates only coverage in the public option of those Hyde-permitted abortions (in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother).  But, H.R. 3962 does not prohibit funding other abortions and it goes further – explicitly allowing the HHS Secretary to include all abortions in the public option. (Section 222(e)(3)).  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.

“It would exclude abortion from the list of benefits that plans participating in the insurance exchange would be required to offer.”

While the bill would not force all private insurance plans to directly reimburse for abortion, the bill allows private health insurance plans that cover elective abortion to receive government subsidies (Section 222(e)(2)). This 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).

“Instead, the exchanges would have to include one plan that covers abortion, along with one that doesn’t.”

The bill does require that there be one insurance company in each region that does not directly reimburse for abortion.  However, 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.

Additionally, for the first time the government is mandating that there be a private insurance company that does provide abortion coverage in each region.

“Even so, the plans that cover abortion would have to take steps to make sure that federal funds are segregated from those used to pay for abortions.”

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.

As Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) said last night in support of his amendment that would reflect the opinion of the majority of Americans and codify the restrictions of Hyde into H.R. 3962, “No federal dollars, no matter how you try to disguise it, should be used to fund abortion in this legislation.”