On Wednesday, December 9th, the New York Times published an op-ed by Congressman Bart Stupak in which he makes misleading claims about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the House Health Care Reform bill. Here, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), author of the Capps Amendment, provides a reality check to the claims in that op-ed.
Claim: Our amendment maintains current law, which says that
there should be no federal financing for abortion.
Reality: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes well
beyond current law by contracting access to abortion services and is in no way
the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment its proponents claim. It dramatically
restricts consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that
include coverage for abortion services in the health exchange. In
contrast the Capps Amendment, which was included in the original version of the
House bill, continued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services,
but did so without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical
procedure when it is paid for with private funds. Reputable
third parties, like a recent study from George Washington University, have
found that the Stupak–Pitts Amendment would
restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for entirely with
Claim: Under our amendment, women who receive federal subsidies
will be prohibited from using them to pay for insurance policies that cover
abortion. The amendment does not prevent private plans from offering abortion
services and it does not prohibit women from purchasing abortion coverage with
their own money. The amendment specifically states that even those who receive
federal subsidies can purchase a supplemental policy with private money to
Appreciate our work?
Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.
Reality: There is nothing in the
Stupak-Pitts Amendment to ensure that riders are available or affordable to
individuals purchasing coverage in the Exchange. There is no
evidence that insurance companies actually offer such riders in the five states
that currently require women to purchase a separate rider for abortion
coverage. It is not practical to expect women to plan ahead for an
unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that goes terribly wrong, by purchasing a
supplemental rider. Furthermore, if only women of childbearing age
purchase such a rider then the premium for the rider will likely cost almost as
much as the service.
Claim: Some opponents of the amendment have tried to argue that
it would effectively end health insurance coverage of abortion in both the
private and public sectors. This argument is nothing more than a scare tactic.
Reality: It is highly unlikely that
any insurance plan is going to go through the pain staking process of setting
up two separate plans —one with abortion services offered and one without – to
cater to less than 20% of the Exchange participants who are allowed to buy
plans that include abortion services. As noted
by Robert Laszewski, consultant to the insurance industry, in a recent
interview with NPR, it wouldn’t make any business sense to offer a plan
that would only be available to such a small number of potential customers.
recent report by George Washington University similarly concluded that the
effect of the Stupak amendment would “militate against the creation of a
supplemental coverage market.” The argument
that this amendment won’t restrict access for women who are paying for
insurance entirely out of their own pockets is false.
Claim: The language in our amendment is completely consistent
with the Hyde Amendment, which in the 33 years since its passage has done
nothing to inhibit private health insurers from offering abortion coverage.
There is no reason to believe that a continuation of this policy would suddenly
create undue hardship for the insurance industry — or for those who wish to use
their private insurance to pay for an abortion.
Reality: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment
goes well beyond current law by contracting access to abortion services and is
in no way the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment its proponents claim. The Hyde Amendment
prohibits federal funding for abortion in Medicaid programs except in
cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the women, but it allows
states to use their own funds to pay for abortions in other cases.
Applying this same principle, the Capps Amendment, would have prohibited federal
funding to pay directly for abortions in insurance plans in the Exchange,
but would allow plans to pay for these services using private funding from
patient premiums. Just as churches and military contractors are able to
segregate federal funds from other sources of funding, insurance companies can
do the same.
Claim: Given that insurance companies are able to offer
separate plans with and without abortion coverage now, it seems likely that
they would be able to continue to do so on the newly established health
Reality: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment severely limits private plans’
ability to cover abortions. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit
any abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions within the public option and any plans
sold in the Exchange to individuals who receive affordability credits.
Although insurance companies are permitted to offer plans that cover abortion
to individuals who do not receive affordability credits, they would only be able
to do so if they offered two nearly identical plans with the only difference
being coverage and exclusion of abortion services. Furthermore health
insurance companies would be unlikely to even offer a plan that does receive
any funding from affordability credits because the risk pool would be too
small. In effect, this ensures there will not be any private plans
covering abortion available to individuals and small businesses that purchase
health insurance in the new Exchange.
Stupak Claim: It is also disingenuous
to argue (as some have) that it would be a hardship for insurance companies to
provide plans with and without abortion coverage — when the health care bill as
introduced in the House and Senate mandated exactly that. Under language
suggested by Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California, the new
insurance exchange would be required to provide at least one plan that covers
abortion and one plan that does not. If offering separate abortion-free plans
in this way was acceptable under the Capps language (which has been endorsed by
abortion-rights groups), then it should also be acceptable under the
Reality: Under the Capps language
the Exchange would have to ensure that there is at least one plan that does not
include abortion services and one that does. These plans could be
offered by the same company or different companies, so long as consumers were
offered at least one of each option. In contrast the Stupak-Pitts
Amendment requires private plans that want to offer a comprehensive plan
including abortion services – and most private plans currently do offer
comprehensive plans – they would have to offer an identical plan that does not
include abortion services. So if Blue Cross Blue Shield wanted to
offer a comprehensive plan they would also have to offer an identical plan
without those services. According
to insurance industry consultants like Robert Laszewski it wouldn’t make
any business sense to offer a plan that would only be available to such a small
number of potential customers (since less than 20 percent of the exchange
customers would even be allowed to purchase a comprehensive plan). And
that is why anyone in the Exchange – even those paying for insurance completely
on their own – wouldn’t have access to abortion coverage. The argument
that this amendment won’t restrict access for women who are paying for insurance
entirely out of their own pockets is false.
Claim: While many accusations have been thrown around in recent
months, the intent behind our amendment is simple and clear: to continue
current law, which says that there should be no federal financing of abortions.
Our intent was not to change, add or take anything away from federal law.
Reality: Again, the
Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes well beyond current law by contracting access to
abortion services and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment
its proponents claim. Regardless of intent, the amendment does dramatically restrict
consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that include coverage
for abortion services in the health exchange. In contrast the Capps Amendment
continued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services, but did so
without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical procedure when it
is paid for with private funds. Reputable third parties, like a recent
study from George Washington University, have found that the Stupak-Pitts
Amendment would restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for
entirely with private funds.
Claim: This goal is consistent with the opinion of a majority
of Americans. Recent CNN and Washington Post-ABC News polls found that 61
percent of Americans do not want taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. And
while the Senate voted down a similar amendment on Tuesday, I’m hopeful that
the spirit of our legislation will make it into the final bill.
Reality: The Capps language is consistent with both
current law and public opinion because it explicitly prohibits federal funding
for abortion services except those allowed by the Hyde Amendment: rape,
incest, and to protect the life of the woman. Furthermore, recent polling
conducted by the Mellman Group found that:
of voters would oppose a health care reform plan that prevented private
insurance plans from covering abortion.
- 56% of voters believe
that those who receive partial subsidies should be able to buy plans that
cover abortion – surpassing those who oppose this choice by a 20 point
- 52% of voters support
the “Capps compromise,” which would prohibit federal dollars, including
partial subsidies, from being used to pay for abortions, though abortions
could be paid using private funds generated by patients’ premiums.
- 47% agreed that
“Political differences should not prevent us from moving forward on an
otherwise good healthcare reform plan.”
pollster Mark Mellman noted a column in The Hill recently,
“Americans do not want reform to be an excuse for tightening restrictions on
abortion or for taking away health coverage millions already have. Nor do they
want an abortion debate to stop reform. Voters want an abortion-neutral