Associated Press Misleads Readers on Abortion, Health Care, and President Obama
by Steven Ertelt
August 3, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Associated Press is coming under criticism from pro-life advocates who say its recent wrap-up article on the health care debate is misleading.
AP writer Charles Babington wrote a "fact check" story attempting to make the case that abortion is not included in the health care bills and that President Barack Obama doesn’t want it to be included.
But Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, says that’s not the case.
AP claims that "Obama recently told CBS that the nation should continue a tradition of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.’"
"If Obama had actually said that, it would have been a very newsworthy statement indeed. But Obama didn’t say it. AP has grossly distorted what Obama actually said," Johnson tells LifeNews.com.
As LifeNews.com reported, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric asked Obama, "Do you favor a government option that would cover abortions?"
Obama declined to answer the question and said he would "rather not wade into" the issue of abortion funding in health care.
Obama said he is "not trying to micro-manage what benefits are covered — which Johnson called a "swipe against adding language like the Hyde Amendment to the bill — which is, of course, the only way to prevent a broad health-benefits law from covering abortions."
The federal government used taxpayer funds to pay for 300,000 abortions annually before the Hyde amendment "micromanaged" the practice.
In his interview, Obama added, "I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care."
Johnson said Obama’s remark was an observation and not an endorsement of keeping abortion out of health care, as the Associated Press reported.
"Contrary to the AP account, Obama did not in any way endorse this ‘tradition’ and he did not say that the ‘tradition’ should be continued," Johnson noted. That is "not surprising since Obama consistently has opposed limits on funding abortion during his time in the Illinois state senate and the U.S. Senate, and he reiterated his flat opposition to the Hyde Amendment when he ran for President."
The president concluded his answer by suggesting that we "not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station."
"We respectfully ask that AP retract this distorted rewrite on what Obama said on an important public policy issue," Johnson said.
The pro-life advocate also took the Associated Press to task on another point.
The AP article says the health care bill "could create a government-run insurance program, or insurance ‘exchanges,’ that would not involve Medicaid and whose abortion guidelines are not yet clear."
But Johnson says the health care restructuring bills Congress is considering are very clear and would wind up promoting abortion.
"All of the bills approved by the House and Senate committees include both a national government-run insurance plan (the "public option") and federally administered insurance exchanges that will regulate and market private insurance plans," Johnson explained. "As to ‘not yet clear’ — it is plenty ‘clear’ what the White House and congressional Democratic leaders intend to require for the new programs, which is federal subsidies for elective abortion."
As evidence, Johnson pointed to the vote last week in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where lawmakers adopted a fake pro-life amendment that, in reality, would explicitly authorize the health care plan to cover any and all abortions.
Johnson says the Capps amendment "explicitly authorizes the flow of public funds, untouched by the Hyde Amendment, into strictly private plans that can cover any or all abortions."
He tells LifeNews.com that the amendment relies on a "bookkeeping sham that is completely contrary to the long-established principles embodied in the Hyde Amendment."
While the AP story correctly notes that the Hyde amendment does not apply to the new non-Medicaid aspects of the government-run health plan, he says it fails to note that President Obama can refuse to sign a bill with the Hyde amendment included. AP also doesn’t note that Congress could also decided to dump the Hyde amendment, leading Medicaid open to pay for all abortions throughout pregnancy at taxpayer expense.
The AP health care factcheck also says that, under the Capps amendment, each region of the country "should have at least one [private insurance] plan that does" cover elective abortions.
However, the amendment does not say "should have" — but says that the federal administrator "shall ensure" that there is a private plan that covers all abortions in each region.
Johnson explains: "That is, under the bill, in every part of the country, elective abortion must be covered under at least one private plan, in order to comply with this federal mandate (in addition to being covered under the public plan)."
It is that kind of taxpayer-funded abortion mandate that pro-life groups like the National Right to Life Committee and others will be fighting when Congress returns from its August recess.
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