Las Vegas Review-Journal Misreads Regulations To Claim Affordable Care Act Will Fund Abortions

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Sherman Frederick once again lobbed false attacks at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), claiming the ACA will fund abortions. But Frederick's claim is based on a misreading of regulations.

Frederick's October 3 post accused the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) of allowing members of Congress and staffers to use subsidies to purchase plans on the exchanges that cover abortion:

The current law of the land strictly forbids federal money being used to fund abortions.

But this Monday the Office of Personnel Management ruled that members of Congress and their staffs will be able to buy health care plans that pay for abortions, even though the premiums are funded by taxpayer dollars.

Many believe that violates the law. But President Obama and most Democrats don't see it that way and are determined to stick by that ruling.

Congressional staffers were forced off of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and onto the exchanges during partisan deliberations over the ACA. This would have resulted in a large pay cut for staffers as they would have been forced to pay the full cost for coverage on the exchanges. To compromise, staffers will receive a premium contribution from the federal government to use towards a plan of their choice on the exchanges.

Frederick argued that the OPM will allow members and staff to choose plans that include abortion services, and since the government will partially pay for that coverage, the administration violated the Hyde Amendment preventing federal dollars from paying for abortions. However, the ruling Frederick referred to said OPM “can and will” take steps to ensure that abortion services “are accounted for and paid for by the individual rather than from the government contribution” (emphasis added):

Current law prohibits the use of Federal funds to pay for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is endangered, and the Smith Amendment in particular makes no funds available “to pay for abortions or administrative expenses in connections with health plans under the FEHBP which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” Neither the proposed nor final regulation alters these prohibitions. Under OPM's final rule, no Federal 8 funds, including administrative funds, will be used to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions. Unlike the health plans for which OPM contracts pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8902, 8903 and 8903a, OPM does not administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange. Consequently, while plans with such coverage may be offered on an Exchange, OPM can and will take appropriate administrative steps to ensure that the cost of any such coverage purchased by a Member of Congress or a congressional staffer from a designated SHOP is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from the Government contribution, consistent with the general prohibition on Federal funds being used for this purpose.  

Frederick conceded that the OPM ruling has “significant nuances” and linked to a Washington Times article that clearly debunked his argument. Still Frederick persisted by promising the OPM ruling will bring a “much bigger controversy” and headlined his post, “Yes, taxpayers, you will pay for abortions under Obamacare.”

Conservative media have long pushed the myth that the ACA will fund abortions, and Sherman Frederick is no exception. His latest article continued his personal crusade against the ACA and expanding health care to millions of Americans.