Fox revives abortion funding falsehood to call Sestak a liar

On Fox & Friends, Michelle Malkin falsely claimed that Rep. Joe Sestak had “finesse[d] the truth” when he said that he had not supported federal funding for abortions. Malkin asserted that Sestak had done so when he “voted for Obamacare.” In fact, the health care legislation Sestak supported did not expand federal funding of abortion.

Malkin attacks Sestak with health care reform abortion falsehood

Malkin: “You can't finesse the truth... Joe Sestak voted for taxpayer-funded abortions” by supporting health care reform. On the October 21 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin discussed the October 20 debate between Pennsylvania senatorial candidates Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak. Host Steve Doocy introduced clips from the debate during which the two candidates disagreed over whether Sestak had supported federally-funded abortion.

Malkin responded to the clip: “Look, you can't finesse the truth. Joe Sestak voted for Obamacare. Obamacare in essence and essentially bottom line gives taxpayer dollars to abortions. Joe Sestak voted for taxpayer-funded abortions. Period.”

Health care reform did not change long-standing restrictions on federal funding of abortions

As Media Matters for America has previously documented, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Sestak supported, does not provide for federal funding for abortions beyond what is allowed under existing law. Under the Hyde amendment, first passed in 1976, taxpayer dollars can only be used for abortion procedures in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.

Health reform Act forbids use of federal subsidies for abortion services except in cases already permitted under federal law. The Act states that if a “qualified health plan” offered under the health insurance exchange provides coverage of abortion services for which public funding is banned, “the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable” to the federal subsidies created by the bill “for purposes of paying for such services.” Federal funding is currently banned, under the Hyde amendment, for all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.

Health reform Act requires insurance plans with abortion coverage to segregate funds to ensure that federal dollars do not fund abortions. The Act requires issuers to “collect from each enrollee” in plans that cover abortions a “separate payment” for abortion services. All such funds are deposited into a separate account used by the issuer to pay for abortion services; federal funds and the remaining premium payments are used to pay for all other services. Additionally, as's Timothy Noah noted, the Act requires that “every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan.” Noah also noted that enrollees opposed to abortion coverage or the added fee “can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions.”

Current law permits abortion coverage through Medicaid so long as funds are segregated. According to a November 1, 2009, study by the Guttmacher Institute, 17 states and the District of Columbia “use their own funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions.” These states provide coverage in all cases, not just those of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Therefore, in 17 states, Medicaid, a federally subsidized health care program, covers abortions in circumstances in which federal money is prohibited from being spent on abortion. Senate bill is clear that “public funding through tax credits and government subsidies for elective abortion services” will be “prohibited.” Running a fact-check on Bart Stupak's March statement that “there will be no public funding for abortion” in the final health care bill, ruled his claim true. Politifact explained that the bill “requires that anyone who selects a plan that covers abortion must pay $1 a month toward a segregated fund that would pay for abortion services,” including those who receive federal subsidies for health insurance. Politifact concluded:

At the climax of the health care debate from the floor, House Republican Leader John Boehner said that even with the executive order from the president, the Senate bill would provide “taxpayer funding of abortions for the first time in 30 years.”

We don't agree. It's understandable that abortion foes opposed a proposal that gives more people the opportunity to obtain insurance that cover abortions. But it's another thing to say those abortion services would be paid with federal dollars. The Senate bill states very clearly that public funding through tax credits and government subsidies for elective abortion services offered in the exchange is prohibited. But more than that, the bill sets up a mechanism to ensure that abortion services offered in the exchange are paid entirely from patient premiums, premiums paid by people who have chosen a private plan that covers abortion. The executive order puts the weight of the president's word behind providing a way to ensure two checks go to insurers every month, so that abortion dollars and federal dollars are not commingled.

We think that's enough to back up Stupak's claim, “There will be no public funding for abortion in this legislation.” But that's a conclusion we reached before the president promised an executive order, back when Stupak disagreed with us and insisted the bill would have had federal dollars subsidizing abortions. We don't understand how the executive order changes Stupak's logic on this issue, but no matter how he arrived as his conclusion, we think he's right now. And we rule his claim True.

Fox pushes falsehood that Stupak amendment was needed to prevent federal abortion funding

Fox graphic: Sestak voted against "[r]estrictions on federal funding for abortion." As Malkin finished speaking, Fox aired a graphic reading, “Restrictions on federal funding for abortion, House vote 884.” A picture of Sestak is at the top of the screen, and the box “no” is checked off under the graphic. House vote 884 was on Stupak's amendment to the House health care bill, proposed in November 2009. From Fox News:

Fox & Friends runs image on Sestak's Stupak vote

House bill already forbid the use of federal funds for abortions except in previously specified cases. This version of the bill, which passed the House but was not passed by the Senate, included language expressly forbidding federal funds spent in public health insurance options from being used for abortions, other than exceptions for rape, incest, and those endangering life of the mother. The bill also banned federal affordability credits from being used to pay for abortion services banned under the Hyde amendment.

Stupak amendment would have effectively banned abortion coverage for some who had it. The Stupak amendment would have effectively barred insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortion through the health insurance exchange. As Media Matters for America has documented, such a provision -- if implemented as part of the House health care reform bill -- would have effectively caused a number of people who currently have abortion coverage to lose that coverage.