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The Truth About Abortion and Health Reform

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Many of you probably received an email yesterday from presidential adviser David Axelrod urging you to forward his message to friends and family as a way to combat false statements about health reform.

We think Mr. Axelrod had a good idea, so in this spirit of debunking myths with the facts, we urge you to make this message viral as well. You can push back against blatant attempts by right-wing groups to use anti-choice politics to derail the health-reform effort.

It is not enough for fact-checking groups to discredit these anti-choice groups' charges. They are using blogs and their extensive network of activists to spread distortions and outright lies. Many of your friends and family members might hear about or read these false claims. These statements may sound outlandish to many of us, but we all know that, if a lie goes unchecked, it can soon be interpreted as the truth.

Please help us spread the truth! Link to this blog post on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter, or email the text below to your friends and family.


"Anti-abortion-rights groups either don't have the facts about health-care reform, or they're intentionally distorting them. They are opposing a 'public option' for health insurance, saying it would cover abortions. The Associated Press quoted Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, as saying the public plan 'pays for abortion.' Wrong." - Editorial from the Des Moines Register, August 11, 2009

During the congressional recess, opponents of health-care reform are using anti-abortion politics as a way to derail real health-care reform. The following includes many of the false claims and the facts that refute them.

FALSE CLAIM: The new health-care system would mandate abortion.

FACT: No. Nothing in any of the current health-care-reform bills mandates abortion coverage - or any other type of health-care service. Two independent sources have debunked these recent anti-choice distortions.

FALSE CLAIM: The new health-care system will expand coverage of abortion beyond its current scope.

FACT: Wrong. Currently, more than 80 percent of private insurance plans cover abortion care. (Source: The Guttmacher Institute (PDF), Table 1, page 75)

In the new system, consumers could choose a plan that does not offer abortion care if they like, just as they could choose a plan that does or does not offer dental or vision coverage.

FALSE CLAIM: Anti-choice members of Congress have not been allowed to change the bills to limit abortion coverage in the new system.

FACT: That's wrong. On July 30, lawmakers (from both sides of the abortion debate) who serve on a key House committee voted for a compromise that allows each insurance plan to decide whether to provide coverage for abortion. It also separates public tax dollars from private funds, thus keeping bans on public funding for abortion services in place. As pro-choice advocates, we find this action regrettable since it singles out abortion from other health-care services, but apparently it was necessary to stop anti-choice politicians from continuing to use health-care reform to attack a woman's right to choose.

This compromise, offered by Rep. Lois Capps of California, includes the following provisions:

  • The health-benefits committee (or HHS secretary) may neither mandate nor ban abortion coverage in health-insurance plans in the exchange. Plans can choose whether or not to cover abortion, as they do now.
  • No tax dollars may be spent on abortion services in the exchange - even in private plans. The new system would require plans to create separate accounts, one for public funds (subsidies for low-income people) and one for private funds (which individuals will pay as premiums). Plans could use only private funds to pay for abortion services.
  • In every coverage area, there must be at least one plan that includes abortion services and one plan that does not. On top of the separation-of-funds provision (above), this is an added assurance that individuals who feel very strongly against joining a plan that offers abortion can choose a plan that does not.
  • Says explicitly that state laws restricting abortion, such as those mandating parental consent for minors, are not affected by the legislation.
  • Says explicitly that federal laws pertaining to "conscience" are not affected by the legislation.
  • The amendment was adopted, 30-28, by lawmakers who are pro-choice, pro-life, and mixed-choice.

Anti-choice members of Congress aren't satisfied with the Capps compromise. They want to impose a new nationwide abortion ban in the private health-insurance market by prohibiting such coverage in the new health-care system--thus taking away coverage from women who already have it. 

For more information about these issues, please visit our action center:

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