From the November 10 edition of MSNBC's Morning Meeting:
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Media figures continue to falsely claim that a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the House health care reform bill would only have the effect of prohibiting government money from being used to pay for abortions, echoing a myth previously advanced about a proposed amendment to a prior version of that legislation. In fact, language in the current House bill already segregates federal money so it cannot be used directly to fund abortions, and the proposed amendment would effectively ban abortion coverage for some who have it now.
The Washington Post's Ramesh Ponnuru offers up standard-issue right-wing opposition to "federal funding for abortion":
Americans may be divided about whether and to what extent abortion should be allowed, but for more than three decades there has been a fairly broad consensus that federal money shouldn't pay for it. Pro-lifers regard the Hyde amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding for most abortions, as the single policy that has done the most to save unborn lives. Some pro-choicers regard it as consistent with their view that the government should stay out of abortion decisions.
The health-care legislation being considered by Congress up-ends this settlement. All of the major bills would offer new subsidies to help people purchase insurance that covers abortion, and those with a public option would authorize a new government-run insurer to cover abortions.
Most Republicans oppose this idea, and so do pro-life Democratic congressmen. They should keep fighting (even though the Democrats will surely be under a lot of pressure to give up). Abortion coverage would almost certainly raise the abortion rate, and would make taxpayers involuntarily complicit in the taking of innocent human life.
The objection to the (even indirect) use of federal funds to pay for abortion on the grounds that "the government should stay out of abortion decisions" is basically dishonest. Does Ponnuru consider Medicaid payments for a trip to the emergency room to fix a broken leg "government involvement in medical decisions"? I'm sure he doesn't. The government refusing to pay for a legal medical procedure is the opposite of the government staying out of the decision.
It's a shame Ponnuru doesn't attempt to reconcile the claim that the government refusing to pay for a legal medical procedure he doesn't like with the standard conservative complaint about "government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor."
It's also a shame that Ponnuru doesn't explain why it's wrong to make taxpayers "involuntarily" pay for abortion, but it's fine to make them involuntarily pay for the death penalty, or wars of choice.
But mostly it's a shame that the Post doesn't ask him to. If it did, it might prompt an actual thoughtful discussion, rather than a rote regurgitation of broad talking points. It might actually help people understand Ponnuru's position. What he posted sure doesn't -- it doesn't include anything we didn't already know about conservative opposition to federal funding for abortion, and didn't address any of the obvious questions about that opposition. It added absolutely nothing to the discourse.
From the October 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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In an October 7 post, right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit falsely claimed that President Obama "is forcing a private Catholic institution to cover abortion in its insurance plan," and Ed Morrissey similarly wrote on HotAir.com that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "demanded that a private Catholic college offer abortion" coverage. In fact, the EEOC -- in a letter of determination that did not address the issue of abortion -- stated that the institution, Belmont Abbey College, violated discrimination laws by denying employees health insurance coverage for "prescription contraceptive drugs."
From the October 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' Rush Limbaugh Show:
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On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity forwarded the false conservative talking point -- which PolitiFact.com gave "Pants on Fire" status -- that White House science and technology adviser John Holdren "advocated compulsory abortion" and "spoke out in defense of compulsory abortion and sterilization." In fact, Holdren never "advocated" for any kind of involuntary birth control; he co-authored an environmental sciences book more than 30 years ago that discusses "compulsory control of family size" including abortion and sterilization as a possible consequence for countries whose expanding birth rates are not curbed by "milder methods."
In her Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker described an amendment to the House's health care reform bill by anti-abortion members of Congress merely as a proposal "to exclude abortion from the bills" and suggested that a compromise provision in one of the versions of the House bills would change current law by allowing federally subsidized insurance plans to cover abortion as long as federal funds are not used. In fact, the anti-abortion proposal would effectively ban abortion coverage for those participating in health insurance plans that would be part of the proposed health insurance exchange -- including those who currently have such coverage -- and contrary to Parker's suggestion that "[s]egregating funding" would reverse current law, Medicaid already allows states to cover abortion so long as they don't use federal funds.
Criticizing Democratic health reform bills for allowing federally subsidized health insurance plans to cover abortion, Fox News contributor Dana Perino claimed that the "Hyde Amendment was supposed to protect against" allowing health insurance plans "that get subsidies from the taxpayer dollars" to cover abortion. In fact, the bills do not depart from current law as embodied in the Hyde Amendment -- indeed, many states cover abortions under the federally subsidized Medicaid program, even in circumstances where federal money is prohibited from being spent on abortion by that amendment.
Several media outlets have purported to fact-check claims about government funding for abortion but have ignored the fact that a proposed amendment by abortion opponents would have had the effect of forcing many who currently have abortion coverage to lose such coverage even if they receive no government subsidy. The amendment offered by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) would have barred anyone who receives insurance through the health care exchanges created by the House bill from buying insurance that covers abortion.
From the August 18th edition of Premiere Radio Networks' Rush Limbaugh:
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Numerous media conservatives have misrepresented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments that protesters are "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care" to express outrage that she would call the protesters "Nazis" -- even though she didn't. However, their outrage rings hollow -- the conservative media frequently invoke Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to smear the Obama administration, Democratic officials, and progressive policies, and such rhetoric has escalated in the past few days, largely due to Rush Limbaugh.
On Sunday, I noted a new Gallup poll that provides further evidence that the May Gallup poll showing a significant spike in the percentage of people who self-identify as "pro-life" was an outlier. (To be clear, it was always obvious from looking at the poll that it was an outlier and should not be taken particularly seriously. The new Gallup poll is just the icing on the cake.)
Today, Steve Benen rounds up some of the other reaction to the new Gallup poll, and takes a look at which of the two polls got more media attention. You'll have to check out Benen's post for the results, but here's a hint: the "liberal" media has a strong track record of privileging opposition to abortion.
Remember back in May, when a Gallup poll found a majority of Americans call themselves "pro-life" -- a nine point margin over those calling themselves "pro-choice"? Remember how the media rushed to tout the findings, despite the fact that the poll had glaring flaws that rendered the findings dubious at best?
Well, last week, Gallup released the results of a new poll -- one finding that 47 percent of Americans call themselves "pro-life," just a hair more than the 46 percent who say they are "pro-choice," providing further evidence that the May poll was an outlier.
This would be a good time for Ramesh Ponnuru to acknowledge that I was right when I pointed out the obvious flaws in the May Gallup poll.
Gallup acknowledges that whatever shift towards the "pro-life" label there has been over the past year has occurred among Republicans, and states that it is a reaction to the election of Barack Obama rather than a shift in beliefs:
The source of the latest shift in abortion views -- between 2008 and 2009 -- is clear. The percentage of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) who call themselves "pro-life" has risen by nearly 10 points over the past year, from 60% to 68% -- perhaps a reaction to the "pro-choice" presidency of Barack Obama -- while there has been essentially no change in the views of Democrats and Democratic leaners.
The new Gallup poll also found that only 18 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. But don't expect to hear the media say much about that poll result; they have a lengthy track record of privileging opposition to abortion.
(For the record, I continue to find questions asking people to label themselves "pro-life" or "pro-choice" less illuminating than questions that ask people whether they think abortion should be legal in specific circumstances, for reasons I explained last month.)
Chris Matthews spends much of each Hardball broadcast spouting off about things he doesn't understand, and making pronouncements about The Way Things Are that just don't make sense. Here he is talking about federal funding for abortion, for example:
The Hyde Amendment, which we all know about, says no federal dollar can pay for anybody's abortion, for the obvious reason: people who are opposed to abortion don't want to have to pay for it, directly or indirectly, as taxpayers.
No. No, that is obviously not the reason.
Plenty of people are opposed to the death penalty and wars of choice, and the Department of Agriculture, and studies about the mating habits of fruit flies and incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders and membership in the UN -- and they don't want to have to pay for those things, directly or indirectly, as taxpayers.
And yet they do pay for them. There is no "Hyde Amendment" preventing the government from paying for any of those things.
The Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding of abortion does not exist -- cannot logically exist -- simply because people who oppose abortion don't want to pay for it. If that were the way things worked, we literally would not have a government.
No, the Hyde Amendment exists because the political and media establishment privilege opposition to abortion over countless other things that millions of Americans oppose. Like Chris Matthews just did, and like he has done in the past.
And yet Matthews sits there and insists that federal funding of abortion is not allowed simply because "people who are opposed to abortion don't want to have to pay for it," apparently not grasping the obvious implications of the silly notion that the government doesn't fund things some people don't want to pay for.
If you think this is all just semantics, take a look at the following two passages:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: The Hyde Amendment, which we all know about, says no federal dollar can pay for anybody's abortion, for the obvious reason: people who are opposed to abortion don't want to have to pay for it, directly or indirectly, as taxpayers.
BIZARRO CHRIS MATTHEWS: The Hyde Amendment, which we all know about, says no federal dollar can pay for anybody's abortion, even though it is a legal medical procedure, and even though collective funding for things individual taxpayers may oppose is inherent in the very concept of government.
Is there any doubt whatsoever that the second version would give people a clearer understanding of the situation? Is there any doubt at all that the first version is slanted in favor of the anti-abortion position?