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.
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Perino says reform bills use "sneaky way" around current law, but current law allows coverage for abortion under Medicaid
Perino: Proposal is a "sneaky way" to get around Hyde Amendment. During a segment on the September 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Perino, a former Bush White House press secretary, stated:
PERINO: Well, the fact that FactCheck.org is just one of the news sites that said that President Obama is wrong and that [Sen. Claire] McCaskill [D-MO] is wrong -- Time magazine did it, AP did it -- because what they're talking about is -- that's true that the Hyde Amendment does prevent that. But if they've created a different funding stream, which is what they've done in these bills, then it would allow for plans to be covered that get subsidies from the taxpayer dollars, and that is what the Hyde Amendment was supposed to protect against and they've just found a sneaky way to get it through.
Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal money to fund most abortions under Medicaid. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Hyde Amendment was originally passed to ban the use of federal money to pay for abortions under Medicaid. The version of the Hyde Amendment that is included in the Labor/HHS/Education section of the FY2009 omnibus appropriations bill states: "None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion," but includes exceptions for pregnancies that are "the result of an act of rape or incest" and in cases where a woman is "in danger of death unless an abortion is performed."
Seventeen states use state funds to cover abortions for Medicaid recipients in additional circumstances. According to a September 1 study by the Guttmacher Institute, 17 states provide coverage under Medicaid for "all or most medically necessary abortions," not just abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. Those states "us[e] their own funds" -- not federal funds -- "to pay" for the procedures. Therefore, in 17 states, Medicaid, a federally subsidized health care program, covers abortions in circumstances in which federal money is prohibited from being spent on abortion.
Proposal in House bill incorporates Hyde Amendment
Language added to House bill incorporates Hyde Amendment. During the Hannity segment, host Sean Hannity quoted FactCheck.org's statement that there is "language added to the House bill that technically forbids using public funds to pay for" abortions. In fact, the "language added to the House bill" to which Hannity referred, an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) that the House Energy and Commerce Committee agreed to by a 30-28 vote, prohibits "the expenditure of Federal funds" for abortions the Department of Health and Human Services cannot cover. As long as the Hyde Amendment remains in place to prohibit Health and Human Services for paying for abortions in most circumstances, the Capps amendment would prohibit federal money expended under the health reform bill for paying for abortions in the same cases.
Alternative conservative proposal would cause many to lose insurance coverage for abortion
An alternative proposal would bar anyone who receives insurance through the health care exchanges created by House bill from buying insurance that covers abortion. As Media Matters for America has noted, an amendment to the House bill offered by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA), which was rejected by the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a 31-27 vote, would bar anyone who receives health insurance through the exchanges created by the reform bill from obtaining insurance that covers abortion. Studies show that, currently, many people have employer-provided health insurance that covers abortion. If the bill passes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that in 2016, "about 9 million people who would otherwise have had employer coverage would not be enrolled in an employment-based plan under the proposal." Those people would then have to enroll in health insurance through the exchanges, Medicare, or Medicaid, and many would therefore lose coverage for abortion.
From the September 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: And now we turn to one of the main sources of all that outrage and that's health care reform. As this summer of town halls comes to an end, serious questions still remain on what the final piece of legislation is going to look like. Now, chief among them is the issue of whether or not the government option will in fact cover abortions.
And that subject was raised at an event hosted by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill yesterday. Let's take a look.
[begin video clip]
McCASKILL: I think everyone in the room, regardless of how you feel about that subject of abortion, all of us want to prevent abortions. ... It is black-letter law right now in the federal system -- black-letter law that not one dime of federal tax money can be used to fund any abortion. That's black-letter law. It's called the Hyde Amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's in there.
McCASKILL: It's called the Hyde Amendment and --
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's in there. Don't tell me it's not. It's page 30, 123.
McCASKILL: Ma'am. Ma'am, it's not fair to everyone else. I will tell you that it is not in the Senate bill. It is not in that bill.
[end video clip]
HANNITY: All right, now, despite Senator McCaskill's denial, which has been echoed by President Obama himself, the nonpartisan, nonprofit website, FactCheck.org, they say the following, quote: "House and Senate legislation would allow a new 'public' insurance plan to cover abortions, despite language added to the House bill that technically forbids using public funds to pay for them." Well, there you have it.
And joining me now to help through -- sort through all of this controversy and much more, former White House press secretary and Fox News contributor, Dana Perino, and from the Fox Business Network, Stuart Varney.
Guys, does it fund abortions, not fund abortions?
PERINO: Well, the fact that FactCheck.org is just one of the news sites that said that President Obama is wrong and that McCaskill is wrong -- Time magazine did it, AP did it -- because what they're talking about is -- that's true that the Hyde Amendment does prevent that. But if they've created a different funding stream, which is what they've done in these bills, then it would allow for plans to be covered that get subsidies from the taxpayer dollars, and that is what the Hyde Amendment was supposed to protect against and they've just found a sneaky way to get it through.