Conservative media still falsely claiming health bill funds abortion

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Following the announcement that President Obama agreed to issue an executive order reaffirming that the recently passed health reform bill maintains current law on federal funding for abortion, conservative media continued to falsely claim that the bill contains federal funding for abortion. In fact, the bill bans federal funding for abortion except in cases currently allowed under the Hyde amendment: rape, incest, and conditions that endanger the life of the pregnant woman.

Conservative media still falsely claim bill "provides" federal funding for abortion

HotAir: Executive order would "violate a law that Congress was in the middle of passing." In a March 22 post on HotAir.com, Ed Morrissey falsely suggested Obama's executive order is inconsistent with the language in the health care reform bill, writing: "Barack Obama agreed yesterday essentially to violate a law that Congress was in the middle of passing -- and the Democrats in Congress cheered for him to do exactly that as a means to hoodwink the last few Representatives they needed to pass the bill."

Andrea Tantaros: Health bill "doesn't have a total ban on" federal funding for abortion. On Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros asserted that in the health bill "right now, a woman, if she needs federal funding for an abortion, she can write a check for that separately. It doesn't have a total ban on it." From the March 22 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

TANTAROS: This is an absolute disgrace, OK. Pro-life Democrats right now, they're akin to unicorns, great in theory but there really aren't any real ones. I've yet to see one yet. And this cave by Bart Stupak launched this thing -- actually dragged this bloody body over the finish line last night, and here's why we're so upset. Here's why pro-life conservatives are so upset.

A couple of things: it does not fix the Senate language in the Senate abortion bill. It does not revert to the stricter abortion language that was seen in previous House bills. So, currently, right now, a woman, if she needs federal funding for an abortion, she can write a check for that separately. It doesn't have a total ban on it. And this executive order can be reversed at any time.

Also, the $9.5 billion in this bill can be funneled to community health centers, which could be used for abortion. So an executive order, Bill, in theory, the president can sign it -- it can be torn up, it can be reversed at a later date and it only has jurisdiction on federal agencies. It's not enforceable under the law.

Rich Lowry: "The Senate bill provides federal funding for" abortion. In his March 22 column, National Review editor Lowry wrote:

Democrats sealed their majority yesterday with a characteristically farcical deal over abortion. The Senate bill provides federal funding for the procedure, in a departure from the long-standing prohibition of such funding under the Hyde Amendment. Pro-life Democrats led by Michigan's Rep. Bart Stupak didn't want to support the Senate bill without the Hyde-like restrictions that were in the version first passed the House. But they folded for a legally meaningless executive order purporting to preserve the status quo as defined by Hyde.

Kimberley Strassel: "The order won't change the Senate legal language." In her March 21 column, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel falsely suggested that the executive order is inconsistent with the language in the health bill, writing that "the order won't change the Senate legal language":

By the weekend, all the pressure and threats and bribes had left the speaker three to five votes short. Her remaining roadblock was those pro-life members who'd boxed themselves in on abortion, saying they would vote against the Senate bill unless it barred public funding of abortion. Mrs. Pelosi's first instinct was to go around this bloc, getting the votes elsewhere. She couldn't.

Into Saturday night, Michigan's Bart Stupak and Mrs. Pelosi wrangled over options. The stalemate? Any change that gave Mr. Stupak what he wanted in law would lose votes from pro-choice members. The solution? Remove it from Congress altogether, having the president instead sign a meaningless executive order affirming that no public money should go to pay for abortions.

The order won't change the Senate legal language -- as pro-choice Democrats publicly crowed within minutes of the Stupak deal. Executive orders can be changed or eliminated on a whim. Pro-life groups condemned the order as the vote-getting ruse it was. Nevertheless, Mr. Stupak and several of his colleagues voted yes, paving the way to Mrs. Pelosi's final vote tally of 219.

RedState claims order "will be shredded by the first judge to decide between the law and the Stupak Executive Order." In a March 22 post on RedState.com, Dan Perrin wrote: "Rep. Stupak traded his and his followers' vote for a piece of paper that will be shredded by the first judge to decide between the law and the Stupak Executive Order. The law Stupak voted for will win the coming lawsuit by pro-abortion groups over the differences between the law and the Executive Order, obviously. Then, thanks to Rep. Stupak, taxpayer funded abortions will be legal and underway."

Health bill still does not contain federal funding for abortion

Senate bill forbids use of federal subsidies for abortion services except in cases allowed by the Hyde amendment. The health care reform bill passed by the Senate 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 federal subsidies created under the bill "for purposes of paying for such services." Public funding is currently banned by the Hyde amendment for all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.

Senate bill requires insurance plans that cover abortion to segregate funds to ensure that federal funds are not used to pay for abortions. The Senate bill requires issuers to "collect from each enrollee" in plans that cover abortions a "separate payment" for "an amount equal to the actuarial value of the coverage of" abortion services. All such funds are deposited into a separate account used by the issuer to pay for abortion services; federal funds and the remaining premium payments are used to pay for all other services. Additionally, as Slate.com's Timothy Noah noted, the Senate bill requires that "every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan," so people who do not want to pay the "fee" "can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions."

Current law permits abortion coverage through Medicaid so long as funds are segregated. According to a November 1, 2009, 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.

ABC World News "Truth Squad": "[T]he bill makes it clear there can be no federal money for abortion." On March 4, The ABC World News "Truth Squad" investigated Rep. Bart Stupak's [D-MI] claim that "the federal government will directly subsidize abortions" in the Senate bill and found "the bill makes it clear there can be no federal money for abortion."

White House: "[T]he legislation as written maintains current law." In an introduction to the language of the executive order, the White House noted [emphasis added]:

Today, the President announced that he will be issuing an executive order after the passage of the health insurance reform law that will reaffirm its consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion.

While the legislation as written maintains current law, the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation's restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.

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