Fox abortion coverage again reveals blurred lines between network's "news," "editorial" programming

››› ››› BROOKE OBIE

On both Fox News' Happening Now - which the network states is a "news" program - and Fox & Friends -- which Fox News considers "editorial" programming -- Fox News hosts prompted Sen. Orrin Hatch to falsely claim that the amendment he co-sponsored with Sen. Ben Nelson is an attempt to "just put the Hyde amendment" -- which forbids the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest - into the Senate health care reform bill. In fact, the bill already explicitly prohibits the use of federal funds to provide coverage for abortions that are not allowed under the Hyde Amendment, and the Hatch/Nelson amendment would restrict funding of abortion beyond the Hyde restrictions; the Hatch interviews thus again demonstrate how Fox's "news" programs echo the same falsehoods and GOP talking points as their "editorial" programming.

Fox's "news," "editorial" shows both let Hatch suggest Senate bill allows funding of abortions inconsistent with Hyde and that his amendment simplify codifies Hyde

From the December 7 edition of Happening Now:

JON SCOTT (ANCHOR): Senator, there's so much confusion about this, whether the reality of the Hyde amendment is reflected in some of this legislative language. Where do you see that this stands?

HATCH: Well, Jon, before the Hyde amendment, there were 300,000 federally paid-for abortions. That's why the Hyde amendment came about. We're trying to just put the Hyde amendment into this bill. Why? Because this is not part of the appropriations process. Hyde has to be reauthorized every year. This bill will operate on its own, and if we don't have language in there prohibiting abortion -- except to save the life of the mother and/or rape or incest, which is why Hyde allows -- then this is a wide-open thing. And the language in the bill is very inadequate.

So almost every -- well, everybody in the right-to-life community is up in arms about it. And I'm glad that Senator Nelson is willing to co-sponsor this with me. He's the lead sponsor, and he's indicated that he'll vote against cloture and vote against the bill if this amendment -- if our amendment doesn't pass. And I hope he'll live up to that.

From the December 8 edition of Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): A vote expected today on the anti-abortion amendment of the health-care reform bill on the Senate side. And now, one of the sponsors, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, is threatening to oppose the Senate's entire proposal if his measure indeed fails. Could this derail health care altogether? Joining us now, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. He's one of the amendment's co-sponsors. Senator Hatch, what's in this amendment, and why do you think that it's probably doomed to fail?

HATCH: Well, in 1977 the Congress got tired of paying -- the federal government paying for 300,000 abortions up to then, so they came up with the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is enacted every year in the appropriations bill in the House and the Senate. But this bill doesn't require appropriations, so we have to put the Hyde amendment in here. And Bart Stupak, over in the House, got his amendment in, which is really, in essence, the Hyde amendment. We'd like to be able to do it in the Senate, but it's very uphill for us.

KILMEADE: So -- right now, you said Bart Stupak and 30-plus congressmen, women, Democrats say we are not going to vote for a House version of a health-care reform bill if it looks like federal funds are going to be funding abortion. That gets through. It's up to you guys now. Senator Ben Nelson is leading the charge; you're right by his shoulder. In that, it says essentially, the language -- to break it down in layman's terms -- no federal funds for abortions, correct?

HATCH: That's right. In other words, you can have your abortion, but just don't call on the federal government to pay for it either directly or indirectly. And what this does is it says that no federal funds can be used to pay for abortion. No subsidies that are given under this bill can be used to pay for abortion. And -- but you can buy a private policy -- companies can issue private policies -- as long as you don't use federal funds.

But Senate bill explicitly prohibits federal funding of abortions not covered under Hyde

Bill requires HHS secretary to ensure that public option uses "no Federal funds" in providing abortion coverage beyond Hyde. Section 1303(a)(1)(C) of the Senate bill, titled "Prohibition on federal funds for abortion services in community health insurance option," explains that the Health and Human Services secretary must ensure that "no Federal funds are used for such coverage" as outlined in Section 1303(a)(1)(B)(i). That section is defined as "Abortion for which public funding is prohibited," and describes abortions for which federal funding is prohibited under the Hyde amendment.

From Section 1303(a)(1)(C) of the bill:

(C) PROHIBITION ON FEDERAL FUNDS FOR ABORTION SERVICES IN COMMUNITY HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION. --

(i)DETERMINATION BY SECRETARY. -- The Secretary may not determine, in accordance with subparagraph (A)(ii), that the community health insurance option established under section 1323 shall provide coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i) as part of benefits for the plan year unless the Secretary-

(I) assures compliance with the requirements of paragraph (2);

(II) assures, in accordance with applicable provisions of generally accepted accounting requirements, circulars on funds management of the Office of Management and Budget, and guidance on accounting of the Government Accountability Office, that no Federal funds are used for such coverage; and

(III) notwithstanding section 1323(e)(1)(C) or any other provision of this title, takes all necessary steps to assure that the United States does not bear the insurance risk for a community health insurance option's coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i).

From Section 1303(a)(1)(B) of the Senate bill:

(B) ABORTION SERVICES. --

(i) ABORTIONS FOR WHICH PUBLIC FUNDING IS PROHIBITED. -- The services described in this clause are abortions for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is not permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved.

Bill requires states to ensure that "no ... Federal funds ... pay or defray the cost of" such coverage. The bill further specifies that states are required to "assure that no funds flowing through or from the community health insurance option, and no other Federal fund, pay or defray the cost of providing coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i)."

From Section 1303(a)(1)(C) of the Senate bill:

(C) PROHIBITION ON FEDERAL FUNDS FOR ABORTION SERVICES IN COMMUNITY HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION. --

[...]

(ii) STATE REQUIREMENT.-If a State requires, in addition to the essential health benefits required under section 1323(b)(3)(A), coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i) for enrollees of a community health insurance option offered in such State, the State shall assure that no funds flowing through or from the community health insurance option, and no other Federal funds, pay or defray the cost of providing coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i). The United States shall not bear the insurance risk for a State's required coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i).

Bill prohibits health insurers from using federal subsidies "for the purposes of paying for" abortion services restricted by Hyde. The bill states that if a "qualified health plan" offered under the health insurance exchange provides coverage of abortion services for which public funding is banned, "the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable" to the subsidies created under the bill "for purposes of paying for such services" and must segregate funds for that purpose.

From Section 1303(a)(2) of the Senate bill:

(2) PROHIBITION ON THE USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS. --

(A) IN GENERAL. -- If a qualified health plan provides coverage of services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i), the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to any of the following for purposes of paying for such services:

(i) The credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (and the amount (if any) of the advance payment of the credit under section 1412 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

(ii) Any cost-sharing reduction under section 1402 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (and the amount (if any) of the advance payment of the reduction under section 1412 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

(B) SEGREGATION OF FUNDS. -- In the case of a plan to which subparagraph (A) applies, the issuer of the plan shall, out of amounts not described in subparagraph (A), segregate an amount equal to the actuarial amounts determined under subparagraph (C) for all enrollees from the amounts described in subparagraph(A).

Bill requires HHS secretary to ensure that segregated funds are sufficient to pay for abortion services. The bill states that the HHS secretary "shall estimate the basic per enrollee, per month cost, determined on an average actuarial basis, for including coverage under a qualified health plan of" abortions restricted by the Hyde amendment. As noted above, insurers must, for all enrollees, out of non-federal funds segregate the actuarial amount estimated by the Secretary for abortion services restricted by the Hyde amendment from federal funds.

From Section 1303(a)(2)(C):

(C) ACTUARIAL VALUE OF OPTIONAL SERVICE COVERAGE. --

(i) IN GENERAL. -- The Secretary shall estimate the basic per enrollee, per month cost, determined on an average actuarial basis, for including coverage under a qualified health plan of the services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i).

(ii) CONSIDERATIONS.-In making such estimate, the Secretary --

(I) may take into account the impact on overall costs of the inclusion of such coverage, but may not take into account any cost reduction estimated to result from such services, including prenatal care, delivery, or postnatal care;

(II) shall estimate such costs as if such coverage were included for the entire population covered; and

(III) may not estimate such a cost at less than $1 per enrollee, per month.

Like Stupak amendment, Nelson/Hatch amendment goes beyond Hyde

Nelson/Hatch amendment would not simply codify the Hyde Amendment. Contrary to Hatch's suggestion, the amendment he co-sponsored with Nelson, which The New York Times reported is "virtually identical" to the Stupak amendment, would effectively restrict abortion beyond what is codified under the Hyde amendment. Indeed, The Times' editorial board wrote that the Stupak amendment would make it "largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage" and "would prevent millions of Americans from buying insurance that covers abortions -- even if they use their own money." The Times noted that the Stupak amendment's supporters "reached far beyond Hyde and made it largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage" because the amendment "would ban the use of federal subsidies to pay for 'any part' of a policy that includes abortion coverage." As the Times noted, the Hyde Amendment "bans the use of federal dollars to pay for almost all abortions in a number of government programs." The Times further wrote in its editorial on the Stupak amendment:

If insurers want to attract subsidized customers, who will be the great majority on the exchange, they will have to offer them plans that don't cover abortions. It is theoretically possible that insurers could offer plans aimed only at nonsubsidized customers, but it is highly uncertain that they will find it worthwhile to do so.

In that case, some women who have coverage for abortion services through policies bought by small employers could actually lose that coverage if their employer decides to transfer its workers to the exchange. Ultimately, if larger employers are permitted to make use of the exchange, ever larger numbers of women might lose abortion coverage that they now have.

The restrictive language allows people to buy "riders" that would cover abortions. But nobody plans to have an unplanned pregnancy, so this concession is meaningless. It is not clear that insurers would even offer the riders since few people would buy them. [The New York Times, 11/9/2009]

Fox's "news" coverage is often indistinguishable from its "editorial" programming

In response to criticism, Fox News claims its "news hours" are objective. The New York Times reported on October 11 that in response to White House criticism, Fox News claimed that its "news hours" -- which it reportedly defined as "9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays" -- are objective, while its other hours consist of "editorial" programming.

But Fox's news programs echo its "editorial" shows: Smears, doctored videos, GOP talking points. Fox News' purportedly straight news programs echo its "editorial" programs: Media Matters for America has compiled numerous examples -- from this year alone -- documenting how Fox's news programming features smears, falsehoods, doctored and deceptive editing, and GOP talking points.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brian Kilmeade, Jon Scott
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, Happening Now
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