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Fact check: Josh Earnest’s claims about ‘fundamentally dishonest’ rhetoric on Planned Parenthood and abortion funding

The Obama administration spokesperson told some whoppers this week.
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White House spokesman Josh Earnest
Dustin Siggins By Dustin Siggins

Dustin Siggins By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 16, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest threw up two whoppers about federal funding, of abortion, followed moments later by a misstatement about funding against Republicans who want to defund abortion giant Planned Parenthood.

The first whopper: Federal funding for abortions

Earnest said: “It warrants mentioning at this point, that there is a provision of federal law that prevents federal funds from being used to perform abortions. That is a law that's been on the books for quite some time.”

As Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards told Congress last month, the 38-year old Hyde Amendment allows federal funding for abortions -- what are colloquially called "non-elective abortions," those done after the unborn child is conceived due to rape or incest, and if the mother's life is endangered by the pregnancy. The amendment, named for pro-life former Congressman Henry Hyde, has been attached to Medicaid funding since 1977.

It is also notable that several of the 20 contraceptive devices and drugs approved by the FDA -- and, thus, funded by the federal government through the program known as Title X -- double as abortifacients. About $60 million went to Title X funding last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and Planned Parenthood received the lion's share of that funding.

Second whopper: President Obama has "enforced" Hyde Amendment

Earnest said, “And it’s a law that's been enforced by the Obama administration.”

President Obama has made funding abortion a top priority, including in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, contrary to an Executive Order the president said would limit abortion funding in the ACA to that of the Hyde Amendment -- signed in order to get the votes of pro-life Democrats for the ACA's passage -- a government watchdog found that the health care law does fund so-called "elective" abortions.

In other words, President Obama's signature domestic achievement illegally funded abortions. From a LifeSiteNews report last year:

The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies take up a separate, $1 surcharge to cover abortion. However, the majority of the issuers examined by GAO violate the payment structure, and use federal health care subsidies to cover elective abortions.

Nor was this taking place on a small scale; the Government Accountability Office found more than 1,000 insurance plans violated the law.

The administration also attempted to fund abortions outside of what is allowed by the Hyde Amendment in 2010 -- just months after the ACA became law. While the administration backed down on its efforts in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Mexico, it is reasonable to believe this was due to public awareness and backlash – not respect for the Hyde Amendment.

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Why are Republicans trying to defund Planned Parenthood?

Earnest said: “This rhetoric emanating from Republicans about wanting to defund Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood carries out abortions is fundamentally dishonest. And it certainly is something that is not in the best interests of the country, because it’s irresponsible to threaten the basic functioning of the federal government over something that at its root is so fundamentally dishonest.”

It is true that many Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood because of its enormous abortion program and its related profits. However, there are other concerns, and these are the focus of the four congressional committees that are investigating Planned Parenthood. The major concerns are how Planned Parenthood spends taxpayer dollars in general and whether federal laws related to partial-birth abortions – as well as the harvesting of fetal organs and other body parts – are being violated.

The bills that have caused so much consternation in Congress have focused on the investigations, as well -- one-year defunding measures that are in line with regular practices when government-funded (or, more accurately, government-reimbursed) medical professionals and organizations are being investigated for lawbreaking.

As Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox told members of Congress, "The idea that a Medicaid provider…say a gynecologist, accused of abusing women, the idea that we would require that Medicaid continue to provide funding to that doctor until a jury actually convicts would be abhorrent."

In short, Republicans are on factually sound ground to focus a funding battle on whether to force taxpayers to provide dollars for Planned Parenthood's practice of dismembering, crushing, and otherwise slaughtering babies on the taxpayer dime. However, these are not the only concerns that have led to an acrimonious budget season in Washington.

Who is being "fundamentally dishonest"?

To recap: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters "that there is a provision of federal law that prevents federal funds from being used to perform abortions." He also argued that "it’s a law that's been enforced by the Obama administration," and called Republicans who want to defund Planned Parenthood over its federally-funded abortions "fundamentally dishonest."
Context makes it clear that Earnest wants the public to believe that it is a false notion that Planned Parenthood does abortions on the federal dime. However, this is a regular practice, as noted by none other than Planned Parenthood's CEO, under the Hyde Amendment. This is an annual, bi-partisan measure that has allowed the federal funding of abortion for more than 30 years.

Furthermore, various other provisions of law -- including the ACA and Title X "family planning" measures -- fund abortions in ways that are often hidden from the public. Most Title X funding goes to Planned Parenthood.

The full transcript follows:

Q: Yesterday, Planned Parenthood announced that they will no longer be taking financial reimbursements for fetal tissue donations. Does the White House have a reaction to that news?

Earnest: I saw the news, but I don't have a specific reaction to share with you.

Q: So in your opinion, is that an admission of guilt? Or is that -- how does the White House react to that?

Earnest: Well, I think you’d have to check with Planned Parenthood about what was prompting the policy change.

Q: And you mentioned before that the president will not sign any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood on a wholesale basis. Is it possible that the president would consider a bill that reduces the funding of Planned Parenthood?

Earnest: Well, I haven’t seen anything specific like that come across the books. We obviously would take a rather dim view of any effort to advance any ideological agenda on a -- particularly one that's as controversial as the one that has been bottled up in Congress for a while now -- on a piece of legislation that's critical to the funding and functioning of the federal government.

So we’ll take a look at what Congress puts forward, but the president would strongly oppose and would even veto a piece of legislation that would result in the wholesale defunding of Planned Parenthood. And it warrants mentioning at this point, that there is a provision of federal law that prevents federal funds from being used to perform abortions. That is a law that's been on the books for quite some time. And it’s a law that's been enforced by the Obama administration. And it’s why this rhetoric emanating from Republicans about wanting to defund Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood carries out abortions is fundamentally dishonest. And it certainly is something that is not in the best interests of the country, because it’s irresponsible to threaten the basic functioning of the federal government over something that at its root is so fundamentally dishonest.


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