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Americans United for Life notes that the executive order is not permanent and could be repealed.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 Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

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