FactCheck.org says Obama wrong on abortion funding in health care

WASHINGTON —  The leading nonpartisan fact-checking organization says President Obama was incorrect when he said the congressional health care plans could not lead to government-funded abortion.

FactCheck.org, a website run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, posted a 1,400-word analysis Aug. 21 examining a statement Obama made to a group of mostly liberal religious groups. During that webcast/conference call, he asserted, "You've heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true. These are all fabrications."

The website, which has been critical of statements by both Republicans and Democrats, said, "[W]e judge that the president goes too far when he calls the statements that government would be funding abortions 'fabrications.'"

FactCheck.org further said, "[W]e take no stand on whether all abortions should or should not be covered. As for the House bill as it stands now, it's a matter of fact that it would allow both a 'public plan' and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions."

The analysis ran under the headline of "Abortion: Which Side is Fabricating?" A sub-headline read, "Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans."

Time magazine also criticized Obama's statement on abortion, saying it "does not tell the whole story."

Obama increasingly has dealt with the issue of abortion and health care in recent days, saying in his Aug. 22 weekly address that dealt with a string of criticisms, "Some are ... saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false." Technically, Obama may be correct in that statement: While elective abortions may not be mandated under current proposals, they will be allowed, and Obama as a candidate stated his support for abortion coverage in a health care plan, FactCheck.org said.

"House and Senate legislation would allow a new 'public' insurance plan to cover abortions, despite language added to the House bill that technically forbids using public funds to pay for them," the website said. "Obama has said in the past that 'reproductive services' would be covered by his public plan, so it's likely that any new federal insurance plan would cover abortion unless Congress expressly prohibits that. Low- and moderate-income persons who would choose the 'public plan' would qualify for federal subsidies to purchase it. Private plans that cover abortion also could be purchased with the help of federal subsidies."

Under the leading House plan, H.R. 3200, and an addition to the bill known as the Capps Amendment, the public plan can cover elective abortions as long as the abortions are paid for only by enrollees' premiums. Similarly, lower-income people will be allowed to use federal subsidies to purchase a public or private plan that covers abortions as long as the subsidy itself does not go toward financing abortions. Supporters say the segregation of funds is a compromise that would work. Opponents call it a phony compromise and a bookkeeping scam. Those same opponents say it's nonsense to argue -- like supporters do — that under a public plan, some of the money is not government money. The federal government, after all, would be running the public option and paying the abortion doctors out of a government account — even if the account is financed by premium monies, pro-lifers say.

Pro-lifers also say that any system that makes it cheaper and easier to have an abortion would lead to an increase in abortions nationwide.

"[T]he Capps amendment leaves it to the secretary of Health and Human Services to decide whether or not [abortion] will be covered," FactCheck.org said. "It says, 'Nothing in this Act shall be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing' abortion services that would not be legal for Medicaid coverage.... We can't say what [any HHS secretary] will do in the future. But Obama himself said on July 17, 2007, that '[i]n my mind, reproductive care is essential care' and would be covered by his public insurance plan. He was addressing Planned Parenthood."

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