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PolitiFact Can’t Get Its Story Straight on Romneycare and Abortion

1:22 AM, Jan 20, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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In tonight’s debate, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both questioned whether Mitt Romney actually governed in a pro-life fashion, even after his public conversion on abortion. Both claimed that Romney’s health care law increased access to taxpayer-subsidized abortion. Romney denied any culpability, replying, “That was done by the courts.” Fortunately, PolitiFact has looked into this matter on more than one occasion. 

Fetal face profile

In 2007, Fred Thompson said, “So what sort of services does Romney’s health care plan provide? Per the state web site: $50 co-pay for abortions.” Thompson immediately added, “While [a] court mandate requires Massachusetts to cover ‘medically necessary’ abortions in state-subsidized health plans, Mitt Romney’s plan covers ALL abortions — no restrictions.” 

Fast-forward to 2012. A Gingrich ad says, “Romney signed government-mandated health care with taxpayer-funded abortions.” Likewise, a Santorum ad says, “Romneycare includes taxpayer-funding of abortions.” 

PolitiFact rated Thompson’s 2007 statement as “true.” Yet it rates Gingrich’s statement, and by extension Santorum’s, as “mostly false.” How can two statements that are so strikingly similar — the central assertion of each is that Romneycare expanded access to taxpayer-subsidized abortion — be scored as being on opposite sides of the true-false divide? 

Could it be that PolitiFact objects to Gingrich’s calling Romneycare “government-mandated health care”? No, that’s not it. PolitiFact writes, “Romney did sign government-mandated health care.” So what, exactly, is PolitiFact’s objection to Gingrich’s assertion?  It writes,

“Romney did sign government-mandated health care, and Massachusetts does provide taxpayer-funded abortions. But the ad inaccurately links the two together.” 

However, Thompson links the two together as well. He said that “Romney’s health care plan provide[s]” access to “state-subsidized health plans” with “cover[age] [of] ALL abortions.” But while PolitiFact said Thompson’s statement was “true,” here’s what it says about Gingrich’s:

“The law Romney signed did not mention abortion coverage. It [abortion] was included by the state exchange, which created plans that mirror private insurance nationwide. And a court decision two decades earlier mandated that the cost of the abortions be included.”

This sounds reasonable enough — except that the 2007 PolitiFact verdict directly refutes it. That verdict rates as “true” Thompson’s claim that, while the court decision in question requires state-subsidized health plans to cover “medically necessary” abortions, it doesn’t require them to cover all abortions. (Health plans that aren’t subsidized by the state needn’t cover any abortions.) Moreover, PolitiFact added at that time,

“One of the crowning moments of Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts was the creation of Commonwealth Care, a state-run, state-subsidized health insurance program for people making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Although private insurers provide the coverage, the state helps pay the bills and determines what services must be covered.

“That list includes abortion. And the co-pay is…$50.

“…Romney’s campaign counters that the decision about what services to cover was ultimately left up to the independent Commonwealth Care Authority.

“But Romney was well-represented: Of the six policy-making members of the authority’s 10-member board, half are appointed by the governor, and half by the state attorney general. Half of the ex-officio members also are appointed by the governor, including the chairman — the governor’s secretary of administration and finance — and the state insurance commission.

“Although Romney shares responsibility with the state legislature and the program’s board, Commonwealth Care was his pet project, and he takes credit for it.”

Mark Hemingway has plenty more on the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of “fact checkers.” But in this case, at least one of PolitiFact’s rulings would seem to be “mostly false.”

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