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Americans United for Life notes that the executive order is not permanent and could be repealed.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

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