As Tara noted earlier this week, a federal judge in Ohio has found that the health care reform law does not allow for taxpayer funding of abortion, an important first legal test of the argument’s legitimacy. The federal judge denied a request from the Susan B. Anthony List to dismiss a defamation suit brought against the organization from former Rep. Steve Driehaus. During the 2010 midterm elections, the Susan B. Anthony List waged a relentless smear campaign against Driehaus and other pro-life Democrats who voted for health care reform legislation.
Here are some powerful reactions from national organizations that represent Catholic sisters, who were influential in advocating for health care reform:
“As Catholic sisters who stood proudly with the Catholic Health Association and other faith-based organizations in support of health care reform, this ruling brings welcome clarity to an issue that has often been muddied by deliberate distortion,” said Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, President-Elect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. “Attacking pro-life representatives who fought for historic changes to our nation’s broken health care system as proponents of taxpayer funding of abortion is factually and morally wrong. Instead of engaging in destructive political games that distort the truth it’s time to focus on building a health care system that lives up to our nation’s best values and highest ideals.”
“This important ruling untangles the knots of lies and innuendo about the health care reform law that has been exploited for partisan gain,” said Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a national Catholic lobbying group that along with 60 heads of Catholic women’s religious orders endorsed health care reform legislation. “As this decision makes clear, the Affordable Care Act does not provide for taxpayer funded abortions. Religious sisters on the front lines of our nation’s health care crisis know from experience that health care reform will save lives, support pregnant women and even help prevent abortions. Groups that attacked pro-life Members of Congress for supporting health care reform have now been exposed for holding greater allegiance to partisan agendas than making sure women and families have access to quality and affordable medical care.”
As the 2012 elections approach, Religious Right organizations will likely keep touting smears and falsehoods against health reform. Journalists and other observers should think twice before lending legitimacy to this consistently debunked lie about health reform and abortion.
Photo: LCWR Members, Credit: 350.org, Flickr
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Since the beginning of the health care debate, we’ve been busy refuting the misguided claim that the Affordable Care Act includes federal funding for abortions.
One of the primary sources of this myth has been the Susan B. Anthony List, which made the claim the centerpiece of their 2010 campaign against pro-life Democrats who voted for ACA. One of these congressmen — U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, who lost his re-election race — filed a complaint about this deceptive campaign to the Ohio Elections Commission. Since Ohio has laws prohibiting false campaign statements, SBA List faced sanctions for repeatedly employing the false claim in their campaign material.
Yesterday, a federal judge ruled against the SBA List’s attempt to have the case dismissed, finding “significant evidence that [SBA's] statements are false.” Just like last year’s similar ruling in Virginia, the court concluded that there is no tax-funded abortion in the health care law.
SBA List’s response to the ruling was to reiterate the same confusing arguments it made to the judge:
“…[SBA List] researched Obamacare themselves, and they also read the opinions of other groups that also concluded that Obamacare provided taxpayer funds for abortion services. Yet this court found, in spite of that, and in spite of the fact that their speech is true or at least their protected opinion [added bold], that their speech might be defamatory.”
SBA List is trying to have their cake and eat it too. Purely by definition, the SBA List’s speech cannot be both “true” and “protected opinion.” The legal term “protected opinion” refers to a pure statement of opinion that can’t be proven true or false. The court documented repeated instances of the SBA List promoting the claim as “facts” and “the truth,” and went on to strike down that claim as false:
“Whether it is possible, under contingent circumstances, that at some point in the future, upon the execution of x, y and z, that the PPACA would not prevent taxpayer funded abortion is entirely different from providing for ‘tax-payer funded abortion.’ The express language of the PPACA does not provide for tax-payer funding abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.”
In that case, the SBA List’s speech doesn’t fit in either of the categories — it’s not true, it’s not protected opinion, and it’s not going to stand up in our courts of law.
Rather that continuing to defend a misinformation campaign that continues to be exposed as patently false, the SBA List needs to figure out how to start telling the whole truth. We’re hoping this ruling will set a precedent for truth-telling about this persistent myth.
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Yesterday, the Obama administration announced new standards that require health insurance plans to cover all contraceptives and other critical preventive services without co-payments or other charges. The administration acted on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, which Beth blogged about recently, pointing out how making contraception more available is a victory for common ground efforts (and widely supported by people of faith).
In the New York Times, Robert Pear highlights the Institute of Medicine decision, which pointed out that “nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States were unintended, and about 40 percent of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion… so greater use of contraception will reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy, teenage pregnancy and abortion.”
The new guidelines also protect religious employers who are morally opposed to contraception, a provision which Pear notes is modeled after those in place in many states that already require contraception coverage.
Photo credit: Stacy Lynn Baum, Flickr
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Today, the Institute of Medicine affirmed contraception as preventative service, smoothing the path for the Department of Health and Human services to include it in the list of services insurers must make available with no cost-sharing (that is, for free) under the Affordable Care Act.
This is a real victory for women, families and those seeking common ground on abortion. Access to contraception is one of the best ways to avoid unintended pregnancies (and thus many abortions).
The report also noted unintended pregnancies are riskier:
Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.
Healthier women, babies and families is a goal people of good will can — and in fact do — support. Despite what the religious right might want you to think, contraception is popular.
Last fall, pro-choice and pro-life leaders came together in support of contraception access, and poll after poll shows the people in the pews are right there with them. Yes, even the Catholics and evangelicals.
Religious right leaders often claim to be the defenders of “the family,” but every time they come out in opposition to commonsense, common ground measures like this, it seems more and more the only thing they’re protecting is an outdated, rigid ideology.
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As Tara noted yesterday, Mitt Romney’s refused to sign Susan B. Anthony List’s extreme anti-abortion pledge partly because he recognized its radical redefinition of federal funding for abortion would threaten government support of major U.S. hospitals.
Responding to Romney, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser tried to explain:
[Romney] chooses to identify non-existent legislation that would defund hospitals as a reason not to sign. Defunding hospitals has never been considered by Congress, is not part of public debate, and is not part of the pledge.
Of course, just like Tony Perkins’s failed attempt to deflect this same issue, Dannenfelser’s response only raises more questions than it answers. The question isn’t whether the pledge includes hospitals or not — it’s why doesn’t it? SBA List has to choose between a consistent argument about funding rules or explain why they think hospitals that perform abortions should get exceptions.
Despite Dannenfelser and Perkins’s protestations, this question is now part of the public debate. In fact, it became relevant when conservative lawmakers and the Religious Right invented a new standard of what constitutes federal funding of abortion to attack health care reform. Crying foul now that the extreme consequences of this position are being exposed won’t make this go away.
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