An exchange between White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and CNS News reporter Fred Lucas at today's briefing:
Q: In a letter to senators last week the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that, I'm quoting, 'So far the health-reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met the president's challenge of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion.' Is that statement wrong? GIBBS: Well, I don't want to get me into trouble at church, but I would mention there's a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion. That isn't going to be changed in these health care bills. Q: There have been several amendments that would explicitly bar [federal funding for] abortions that were rejected-- GIBBS: Again, there's a fairly well-documented federal law that prevents it.
The "fairly well-documented" federal law Gibbs is referring to is clearly the Hyde amendment, the 1976 law that bars federal funding for abortions for Medicaid recipients--and Medicaid recipients only. A Hyde-like "rider" must be attached to separate bills to prevent federal funding for abortions through other programs. For example, there's a separate amendment that bars federal employees from purchasing insurance plans that cover elective abortions. But under both the House and Senate bills, anyone could purchase a federally subsidized plan that covers elective abortions--a radical departure from current policy. As Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak told US News recently, the House bill's "Capps Amendment says at least one plan [participating in a federal health insurance exchange] must provide abortion coverage and must have one that doesn't have it. For the first time ever, federal policy is saying that abortion is a covered service. That's completely opposite of Hyde." Obama promised during his speech to Congress that "under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions," but, as the New York Times reported last week, "White House officials have declined to spell out what he means." Now, the White House press secretary is making misleading statements that the Hyde amendment "prevents" federal funding of abortion in the health-care bills. The Susan B. Anthony List recently produced an ad to dispel this falsehood. Watch it here:
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