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Fact-Checking FRC’s Radio Ad Attacking the Health Care Bill

April 18, 2010, 2:00 pm | Posted by Kristin Ford

A recent radio ad from the Family Research Council’s Action PAC ran in Rep. Bart Stupak’s district and may be up on the air soon in the districts of another 20 pro-life Democrats. The misleading ad perpetuates myths about abortion and health reform that have been refuted time and time again.

Listen to the ad here. Here’s the transcript:

Woman 1: What’s that noise?

Woman 2: That’s our congressman, Bart Stupak, opening the back door for a health care law that would allow our tax dollars to pay for abortions.

Woman 1: I thought he was pro-life. Didn’t I hear he got President Obama to sign an executive order stopping taxpayer funding of abortions in the health care bill?

Woman 2: Yes, but even the abortion industry agrees that the President’s order has no legal standing. It’s worthless!

Woman 1: So how will the bill force us the pay for abortions?

Woman 2: Well for starters it allows plans to receive tax-payer subsidies to cover elective abortions and it funds school-based clinics with no restrictions on abortion referrals for young girls. Plus, it gives $11 billion to community health care centers that could pay for abortions.”

Woman 1: Wow! Well if Representative Stupak is going to open up the back door for the abortion industry, I think it’s time to show him the exit door.

Family Research Action Council PAC is responsible for this advertising paid for by Family Research Council Action PAC at frcactionpac.org and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

The first falsehood is the claim that Representative Bart Stupak opened up “the back door for a health care law that would allow our tax dollars to pay for abortions.” A few seconds later, the “evidence” for this claim is provided in three parts (which are fact-checked individually below) — 1. taxpayer subsidies, 2. school-based clinic referrals, and 3. community health care centers. The ad also contains serious misinformation around the President’s executive order on abortion funding restrictions.

1. Taxpayer subsidies

As we (and many others, including Pulitzer-Prize winning PolitiFact) have fact-checked many times, no tax dollars will go towards the provision of abortion services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The legislation, passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, bars the use of any federal subsidies for abortion coverage, except in cases allowed by the long-standing Hyde amendment— rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant woman. [See pages 779-782 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.]

Anyone who receives federal subsidies to purchase health insurance and opts for a plan that includes abortion coverage will have to pay a separate premium out of their own pocket for this coverage. This separate premium will have to cover the full cost of the abortion coverage and be kept in a separate audited account.

Also, as NPR noted last week, the legislation allows states to ban all abortion coverage through the exchanges – even if a woman pays for it with her own money. In fact, at least three states — Missouri, Tennessee and Louisiana — are already pursuing this path, even though the exchanges won’t be functional until 2014. Some pro-life groups are already taking advantage of this provision in the bill, even as they spread misinformation about the legislation.

2. School-based health clinic referrals

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits school-based clinics from providing abortions and requires school-based clinics to comply with parental consent and notification laws at the state level, some of which may restrict referrals from employees at school-based clinics. See the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, page 430:

”(3) SCHOOL-BASED HEALTH CENTER.–The term ‘schoolbased health center’ means a health clinic that–

”(A) meets the definition of a school-based health center under section 2110(c)(9)(A) of the Social Security Act and is administered by a sponsoring facility (as defined in section 2110(c)(9)(B) of the Social Security Act);

”(B) provides, at a minimum, comprehensive primary health services during school hours to children and adolescents by health professionals in accordance with established standards, community practice, reporting laws, and other State laws, including parental consent and notification laws that are not inconsistent with Federal law; and

”(C) does not perform abortion services.

Like most statutes governing abortion, the legislation does not specifically address the issue of referrals, neither explicitly barring nor mandating what types of referrals counselors, nurses, or other professionals may offer students in a school-based health clinic. The status quo will not be changed by this legislation. Any state and local restrictions on referrals will be left untouched, and states are free to craft legislation that prescribes what counselors, nurses, or other employees may or may not say to students in a counseling or referral scenario.

School-based health care clinics are extraordinarily important providers of care for low-income and vulnerable children and youth. While teen pregnancy is an unfortunate fact of life in our society and no efforts will be able to eradicate teen pregnancy completely, school-based health care clinics help children and teens to receive the medical care they need. As Linda Jusczcak, Executive Director of the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, said on March 21:

School-based health centers ensure that more than 1 million children and adolescents across the country gain access to high quality, comprehensive medical care, mental health services, preventive care, social services, and youth development. These services are provided without concern for students’ ability to pay and in a location that meets children and adolescents where they are: at school.

Further, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes $250 million dollars over ten years to support pregnant teenagers and young mothers, allowing them to complete their education and carry their pregnancies to term, rather than choosing to have an abortion. [See Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, pages 813-817.] This provision is based on pro-life Senator Bob Casey’s Pregnant Women Support Act, a bill that was crafted in coordination with numerous faith-based pro-life organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association.

The FRC Action ad chooses to scare listeners into thinking the health care bill opens up new avenues for young girls to get abortions, when in fact state and local restrictions on referrals will be left untouched, and states are free to craft whatever legislation they please regarding referrals. Meanwhile, the ad completely ignores the benefit of school-based health centers for adolescents and $250 million in new funding in the legislation for an innovative, life-affirming program that will positively impact young women facing crisis pregnancies.

3. Community health care centers

As we’ve noted in previous fact-check posts, community health care centers do not provide abortions. As the National Association of Community Health Centers stated last month,

“…Health Centers do not plan to, nor are they seeking to, become providers of abortion. On the contrary, last year health centers provided prenatal, perinatal, and post-natal/post-partum care to 1 of every 8 children born in the U.S.”

Also, as health care policy expert and law professor Tim Jost has noted, funding for community health centers cannot pay for abortions because these funds will go into an existing pool of federal money that is explicitly prohibited from paying for abortions:

“The Senate bill… provides that this funding [for community health care centers] is to be transferred to HHS accounts to increase funding for community health centers and does not provide for segregating these funds. Since all other HHS funding, including expenditures from trust funds, is subject to the Hyde Amendment, these funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.”

Furthermore, as Jost points out, federal regulations that have been on the books for decades prevent community health centers from legally doing so:

The Federal Regulations, 42 C.F.R. 50.301, 50.303, which date back to the 1970s, prohibit “any programs or projects supported in whole or in part by federal financial assistance, whether by grant or contract, appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services and administered by the Public Health Services,” from the performance of abortions except for cases of rape, incest, or physical life endangerment of the mother.

In fact, the $11 billion in the health care bill for community health centers will enable health centers to care for almost 20 million more patients, including many pregnant women and children in rural areas. While the FRC Action ad twists the facts in order to scare listeners into believing that community health centers will provide federally-funded abortions, it ignores the direct benefit pregnant women and children they claim to advocate for will receive from increased funding for these centers in the health care bill.

4. Executive Order

The ad also includes a falsehood about the executive order President Obama issued on March 24, 2010, which underscored existing restrictions on any federal funding of abortion. It’s important to note that the executive order ensures enforcement and implementation of longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion– restrictions that are present in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The ad’s claim that an executive order has “no legal standing” is wrong. Under the Constitution, the President is in charge of the executive branch and an executive order directed at a federal government agency (part of the executive branch) is effectively law. (See U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section I.)

Also, executive orders have been an integral part of American governance for hundreds of years, and major steps in American history have happened via executive order (such as the Emancipation Proclamation).

As Representative Stupak has said,

“Throughout history, Executive Orders have been an important means of implementing public policy. The most famous Executive Order was the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln in 1863. More recently, in 2007 President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13435 restricting embryonic stem cell research. This Executive Order followed the principle of the sanctity of life, and was applauded and welcomed by the pro-life community. That these same people would now claim President Obama’s Executive Order maintaining that same principle is not worth the paper it is written on is disingenuous. Why is an Executive Order signed by President Bush applauded, yet President Obama’s is condemned?”

As Rep. Stupak alludes to, pro-life groups (including religious organizations) praised President George W. Bush’s executive orders curtailing research on embryonic stem cells. James Dobson, then head of Focus on the Family, responded to Bush’s 2001 executive order with celebration:

“[President Bush] deserves praise from citizens who understand that it is never justified to destroy one life in order to possibly save another.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which argued that the executive order on abortion funding restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was not adequate to uphold the Hyde Amendment, applauded President Bush’s executive order on stem-cell research in 2007.

Professor Jost’s helpful analysis of the executive order notes that in addition to the Emancipation Proclamation, executive orders from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson desegregated schools and ended discrimination in federal programs. Jost says it succinctly: executive orders “independently have the force of law.”

One Response to “Fact-Checking FRC’s Radio Ad Attacking the Health Care Bill”

  1. Katie says:

    Nicely done. FRC’s announcement this evening that they are targeting 20 pro-life Dems who voted for health care reform with this misinformation campaign makes debunking these falsehoods all the more important: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/frc-action-pac-announces-twenty-target-congressional-races-for-2010-91546764.html