Media Leaves Stupak’s False Claims About Senate Bill’s Abortion Provision Unchallenged

StupakBartAbortionYesterday, President Obama signaled his support for passing the Senate health care bill in the House alongside a reconciliation package of fixes, but pro-life Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) have pledged to oppose the Senate bill unless Congress strengthens the prohibitions against federal funding of abortion.

Stupak has relied on a fundamentally dishonest interpretation of the Senate bill to argue that it would allow for public funding of abortion, and the media has failed to fact check his assertions. Instead, most reports have covered the dispute between Stupak and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a he-said/she-said story, adding legitimacy to Stupak’s gross misrepresentations:

— Yesterday, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Matthews played a clip of Speaker Pelosi adamantly denying that the Senate Bill allows federal funding for abortion and allowed Stupak to contradict Pelosi without settling the dispute.

— On Good Morning America, Stupak told host George Stephanopoulos that “if you go to page 2069 to page 2078 [in the Senate Bill] you will find in there that the federal government would directly subsidize abortions.” Stephanopoulos failed to press Stupak on the matter.

— A February 23rd CNN piece on Stupak’s grievance asserts, “There is extensive debate over which measure best complies with current law limiting federal abortion funding and whether the Senate version does or does not allow public funding of abortion.”

In fact, the “extensive debate” has been settled. Pages 2069-2078 of the Senate health care bill clearly prohibit federal dollars from funding non-Hyde abortions. Contrary to Stupak’s claim, page 2017 (lines 18-21) of the Senate bill give insurers the choice of providing abortion coverage. “The issuer of a qualified health plan shall determine whether or not the plan provides coverage [for abortion].” If the carrier chooses to provide abortion coverage, “the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to any of the following for purposes of paying for [abortion] services,” the bill says, before barring insurers from using government premium credits and cost sharing reductions to finance abortion coverage.

Furthermore, the bill requires insurers to “collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment” for abortion services and deposit the payments into separate “allocation” account. “The issuer of the plan shall deposit…all payments described in subparagraph (B)(i)(I) into a separate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for services other than services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i).”

Stupak has also expressed concern about paying at least $1 into a reserve fund for abortion coverage. But that provision was actually included in the legislation to allay pro-lifers’ concerns and ensure that no taxpayer money is spent on abortion. The $1 is coming out of private premiums, not public dollars, and is a way of ensuring that carriers have sufficient funds to cover the services they offer. But Stupak is just shifting the goal posts. First, he complained about taxpayer funding for abortion; then, once Democrats strengthened the Senate language, he began arguing that private funds should not go towards abortion coverage. He can’t have it both ways.