Friday, March 5, 2010

RedState, Abortion, and the Senate Health Care Bill

Brian Faughnan of RedState recently claimed that "Obamacare" pays for abortion. His evidence for this claim was a quotation of Sen. Barbara Boxer appearing in California Catholic Daily:
Boxer, who played a prominent role in brokering the ‘compromise’ in behind-closed-doors meetings with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska (who insisted on the abortion provision to obtain his yes vote), came under withering attacks from her longtime pro-abortion supporters following the inclusion of the Nelson provision. . . .

But not to worry, Boxer told McClatchy News Service. Boxer, reported McClatchy, “said it's only an ‘accounting procedure’ that will do nothing to restrict [abortion] coverage.”
So is it true? Does the Senate bill provide for government funding of abortion as California Catholic Daily, that paragon of objective and impartial reporting, claims?

Here's what Timothy Noah of Slate has to say about the matter:
"If you go to Page 2069 through Page 2078 [of the Senate bill]," Stupak told George Stephanopoulos on March 4 on Good Morning America, "you will find in there the federal government would directly subsidize abortions, plus every enrollee in the Office of Personnel Management-enrolled plan, every enrollee has to pay a minimum of one dollar per month toward reproductive rights, which includes abortions." Stupak is here referring to the exchanges created under health reform and to a nonprofit plan managed by the Office of Personnel Management that would be sold through the exchanges. The latter was a consolation prize to supporters of a public-option government health insurance program that didn't make it into the bill.

Let's go to Page 2069 through Page 2078 of the Senate-passed bill. It says, "If a qualified plan provides [abortion] coverage … the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services." (This is on Page 2072.) That seems pretty straightforward. No government funding for abortions. (Except in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother's life—the same exceptions granted under current law.) If a health insurer selling through the exchanges wishes to offer abortion coverage—the federal government may not require it to do so, and the state where the exchange is located may (the bill states) pass a law forbidding it to do so—then the insurer must collect from each enrollee (regardless of sex or age) a separate payment to cover abortion. The insurer must keep this pool of money separate to ensure it won't be commingled with so much as a nickel of government subsidy. (This is on Pages 2072-2074.)

Stupak is right that anyone who enrolls through the exchange in a health plan that covers abortions must pay a nominal sum (defined on Page 125 of the bill as not less than "$1 per enrollee, per month") into the specially segregated abortion fund. But Stupak is wrong to say this applies to "every enrollee." If an enrollee objects morally to spending one un-government-subsidized dollar to cover abortion, then he or she can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions. (Under the Senate bill, every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan.)
When Boxer said that the bill would do nothing to restrict abortion coverage, then, she was claiming that those who enroll in a health plan through the exchange would be able to obtain coverage for abortion if they so chose; she was not claiming that taxpayers would pay for those abortions, as California Catholic Daily claims.

If I had to speculate, I would say that the folks at California Catholic Daily made an honest mistake. Their belief that Democrats want people to have abortions, combined with their own incompetence, resulted in their mistaken reporting. The losers at RedState, on the other hand, did not make an honest mistake. They want health care reform to fail, and they are willing to say anything, true or false, to help bring that about.

Another swing and a miss by RedState. You're the gift that keeps on giving. This is too easy.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson