A few days ago, the Associated Press issued a “fact check” on the health-care reform package that included a refutation of the idea that the public plan would pay for abortions. After abortion opponents ripped Charles Babington for poor reporting, the AP turned the story over to Ricardo Alfonso Zaldivar, who fact-checked the fact check. Now the AP acknowledges that the public plan would indeed use taxpayer money to pay for abortions:
Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue. …
A compromise approved by a House committee last week attempted to balance questions of federal funding, personal choice and the conscience rights of clinicians. It would allow the public plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds, only dollars from beneficiary premiums. Likewise, private plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to cover abortion, but no federal subsidies would be used to pay for the procedure. …
But the health overhaul would create a stream of federal funding not covered by the restrictions.
The new federal funds would take the form of subsidies for low- and middle-income people buying coverage through the health insurance exchange. Subsidies would be available for people to buy the public plan or private coverage. Making things more complicated, the federal subsidies would be mixed in with contributions from individuals and employers. Eventually, most Americans could end up getting their coverage through the exchange.
In other words, the entire exercise is an end run around the Hyde Amendment. The issue first arose when conservatives noted that abortion did not get mentioned in any of the versions of ObamaCare floating around on Capitol Hill. A lack of restriction on abortion funding would essentially repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions. The plan would not have to specifically include abortions, just as plans don’t specifically include any procedures, but would cover any legal medical service and fund it either directly or through subsidies.
Obama and his Congressional allies appear to have found a way to pass the Freedom of Choice Act without having to deal with the political fallout of it, by burying it in ObamaCare. It’s a dishonest approach, especially since the bill’s sponsors won’t openly acknowledge the change. A plurality of Americans think of themselves as pro-choice (majorities in some polls), but many more people believe that their tax dollars should not fund abortions whether they support their legality or not.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) wants to offer a “compromise” that would allow private insurers to qualify plans in the state exchanges that specifically exclude abortion. Capps says, “Our country allows for both sides, and our health plan should reflect that as well,” but that misses the point. The issue is not with private insurers, but with public funding of abortions. It’s not a compromise at all if any taxpayer money gets used to pay for abortions.
Maybe Babington should have looked a little closer the first time on this story.