Abortion And Health Reform: A Real Issue

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A few weeks ago, President Obama gave a rather bizarre answer to Katie Couric, of CBS, who asked if he supported a government insurance option–a so-called “public plan”–that would cover abortions. Though he has previously said he wants the new public insurance option to cover abortion, Obama dodged the question this time.

As you know, I’m pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it’s appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.

Since then, Obama has been talking about abortion’s role in health care reform mainly as another myth he wants to debunk. He will mention “death panels.” (They not been proposed and do not exist). He will flag the illegal immigrant canard. (The undocumented will not be covered under health reform). And then he will say the abortion concern is another falsehood that can be dismissed. “You’ve heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion,” he told religious leaders last week. “Not true.”

This last bit of myth-busting, however, is structured to conceal as much as it reveals. For while it is true that Democratic proposals for health reform will not strictly allow for federal funding of abortion, it is also true that these same proposals would represent an historic shift in the federal government’s relationship with providing abortions that do not involve rape, incest or the life of the mother. I have a story up on Time.com explaining the complex issues at play.

FactCheck.org has also weighed in on the abortion issue, coming to a similar conclusion. As the website’s director Brooks Jackson succinctly writes:

The truth is that bills now before Congress don’t require federal money to be used for supporting abortion coverage. So the president is right to that limited extent. But it’s equally true that 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. . . . 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.