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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Earlier this month, we reported on emerging signs of tension between the GOP and the Religious Right, including the suggestion that using life issues as a litmus test for social conservatives may divide Republicans and distract the party from their White House goals. This is confirmed by the current controversy around Mitt Romney’s decision not to sign an anti-abortion pledge sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List.
The pledge requires signers to commit to anti-abortion measures such as defunding Planned Parenthood. Although the majority of the Republican candidates signed on, Romney declined, echoing the same point Eliot Spitzer made to Tony Perkins about the dangerous redefinition of federal funding. In an essay published in the National Review Online, Romney clarifies his position:
“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.”
Romney’s decision is already affecting his standing with the Religious Right. In a statement released yesterday, the president of the SBA List expresses doubts about Romney’s commitment to active anti-abortion leadership: “Our next president must recognize the urgency of addressing over a million abortions per year…Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.” And Deal Hudson, the president of Catholic Advocate, wonders whether anti-abortion advocates will see this as a simple disagreement or as a deal breaker. As he points out, some conservatives may look at Romney’s failure to sign the SBA pledge as an “example of why the former governor of Massachusetts cannot be trusted as the 2012 GOP nominee.”
Although Romney is currently leading in the polls, can he maintain his popularity if the Religious Right continues to criticize him for being too weak on abortion issues? And if he wins the nomination, will these organizations continue to oppose him or suddenly change their mind for “party unity”?
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