By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5, 2009 ( – The Associated Press confirmed pro-lifers' alarm over the Obama health care bill this week, reporting that the legislation would allow the public plan to cover abortions – although abortion groups are continuing to claim that the abortion mandate is a “myth.”

As pro-life groups - including the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops – have warned, the bill's potential to vastly expand abortion through taxpayer funding and a coverage mandate is dangerously close to becoming reality after Congress rejected dozens of pro-life amendments in recent weeks.  The success last week of Rep. Lois Capps' amendment – which explicitly called for abortion coverage in the public plan despite its billing as a “common ground” measure – sealed the issue.

AP reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar confirmed that the current health legislation “would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.”

Alonso-Zaldivar also noted that even before the Capps amendment passed, experts acknowledged that the lack of abortion language in the bill meant that it would allow health care plans in the new insurance exchange to provide unrestricted coverage to abortion.  Pro-life leaders say that legal precedent in federal courts paints a clear picture of abortion as falling squarely within the definition of such terms as “inpatient services” or “outpatient services,” unless it is explicitly excluded in a given piece of legislation.

However, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards on Monday continued to deny the existence of the abortion mandate, calling it a “myth” that “abortion coverage is mandated in health reform bills unless explicitly restricted.”

“Nothing in any of the current health care reform bills mandates abortion coverage—or any other type of health care service—in the Exchange,” Richards insisted in a column for the Huffington Post.  “Opponents of women's health and health care reform are exploiting this legislation as a way to push for unprecedented prohibitions on abortion coverage in the private marketplace.”

Planned Parenthood and NARAL have gone so far as to launch counter-campaigns against awareness of the abortion mandate, claiming that pro-life groups such as the Family Research Council are not letting facts “get in the way of good, old-fashioned hysteria.”

Richards also called the notion that taxpayer money would be used to pay for abortions in the public plan a “myth.”

“Reality: Opponents of reproductive health care are trying to make you think that the public plan is a government-funded health plan like Medicaid or Medicare—it is not,” said Richards, who said that “the public health insurance plan in the Exchange would operate like any private insurance plan would” – but did not deny that taxpayer money would be used to fund the plan.

A second “myth” Richards pointed to was that the legislation would result in “the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade,” a phrase repeated by Rep. Chris Smith and the National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson.  Richards said that the majority of employment-based health plans cover abortions.

Yet the Capps amendment explicitly mandates that the public health insurance option – which aims to provide for 46 million Americans who now lack coverage – will cover abortions whose public funding is not restricted by the Hyde amendment.  The Hyde restriction, as the AP report confirmed, does not pertain to a stream of federal funding under the health bill that would allow taxpayer dollars to be funneled into abortion.

The Capps provision goes on to require taxpayer subsidies to flow to plans that include abortion, and mandate that every U.S. region have at least one abortion-covering private insurance plan.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue criticized Catholics United, a left-leaning Catholic group, for joining NARAL and Planned Parenthood in blasting the Family Research Council's work against the abortion mandate.  Catholics United claimed FRC President Tony Perkins distorted the truth about the Capps amendment, which they praised as a “common ground” measure.

Donohue notes that both the New York Times and the AP, which are not known for their conservative tendencies, pointed to the same aspects of the amendment that Perkins had condemned. 
“From 1995 to the present, Rep. Capps has always had a perfect score of supporting Planned Parenthood and NARAL – she gets 100%,” said Donohue.  “Her National Right to Life lifetime voting record is predictably 0%. And this is the congresswoman whom Catholics are supposed to trust on abortion?”

See related coverage:

Catholics United, NARAL Blast Family Research Council for Exposing Abortion Mandate in Health Bill

US Bishops Urge House Committee to Support Pro-Life Amendments to Health Care Bill