Americans United for Life’s False Advertising

Amie Newman

The Associated Press reports on the inaccurate, anti-choice ads relying on "exaggeration and omissions" currently hitting the television and radio-waves.

Republicans and their allies – groups like Americans United for Life (AUL)  – are using their anger against health reform to fuel false and misleading advertising on the campaign trail, according to The Associated Press‘ ADWATCH today.

In a series of newly created radio advertisements intended to attack three House Democrats running in three states – John Boccieri of Ohio, Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania and Baron Hill of Indiana – AUL is making some startlingly incorrect claims about abortion coverage under health care reform.

From The Associated Press:

The Claim: The three Democrats “voted for taxpayer-funded abortion in Nancy Pelosi’s health care bill … the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortions ever.”

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The Facts: Before the bill passed, Obama signed an executive order affirming long-standing restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions. In the order, Obama specifically prohibited “the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in case of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered).”

Under the law, private plans in new insurance markets opening for business in 2014 may cover abortion, but payment must come from enrollees themselves, not from federal tax credits that will be offered to make premiums more affordable.

Americans United for Life notes that the executive order is not permanent and could be repealed. Moreover, the group argues that a court “could interpret” the law as requiring federal funding of abortions because it does not specifically prohibit it.

But those are hypotheticals, and the trend is in the other direction. The Health and Human Services Department announced this summer that a program for high-risk uninsured will not cover abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger — exceptions traditionally allowed under federal law. Catholic bishops welcomed the policy while abortion rights supporters said the restriction went too far.

You may not have memorized every provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the law passed this year governing health care reform. However, if your ears are trained to prick up instantly when you hear the word “abortion” in public dialogue, you’re likely attuned to how well women’s access to abortion fared under reform measures; which, of course, is not very well at all. Under a provision included in the PPACA, known as the Nelson Amendment, the soon-to-be created government run health exchanges can restrict insurance coverage of abortion care. In addition, states are allowed to ban insurance coverage of abortion care outright even when premiums are paid with your own, private money (and so far five have passed laws to do so). How did this happen? It may come as no surprise that the provision is the result of a relentless and focused campaign, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in partnership with some key anti-choice legislators in the House and Senate.

In fact, as the article above notes, the anti-choice provisions in health care reform do not end there. Despite the fact that current federal law, via the Hyde Amendment, prohibits funding of abortion care except in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman’s life, the newly created “high risk pools” or Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans, also prohibit abortion coverage. These temporary plans, set up by the states or the federal government, are intended to cover those who are not eligible for health insurance on the individual market because of a pre-existing condition. However, this clearly does not apply to lower-income, pregnant women who are effectively left by the side of the road to find their own way, if their health is threatened by a pregnancy and they are in need of an abortion, since the Obama administration banned abortion coverage in these high-risk pools. 

It is not possible that these three House Democrats currently running voted in favor of “taxpayer-funded abortion” since the Hyde Amendment has prohibited federally-funded abortion care for thirty-four years and additional restrictions ultimately were included in the bill passed via the Nelson Amendment.

News Politics

Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

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Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”