Planned Parenthood obstructs and distorts health care debate

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To read press releases and advertisements unveiled by Planned Parenthood over the last few months, one would think that pro-life members of Congress want to strip all services for women out of healthcare reform. Planned Parenthood portrays these public servants as evil masterminds who are plotting to limit women’s access to insurance coverage and health care. They cry out that “women won’t stand for their benefits being taken away.”

In reality, pro-life members of Congress led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.)—some of whom, by the way, are passionately in favor of comprehensive national health care reform—are only asking for one thing: that Congress not force Americans to pay for abortions or abortion coverage with their tax dollars.

In fact, it is Planned Parenthood and its pro-abortion allies who have delayed and obstructed meaningful health care reform by insisting that any health care reform legislation includes taxpayer-subsidized access to abortion.

The American public has fought back, consistently voicing its opposition to the use of federal funds to pay for abortions or insurance coverage for abortions. A January 2010 Quinnipiac poll shows that seven out of ten voters are opposed to the use of public funds for abortion.

It is likely that, if the Senate had simply adopted the Stupak Amendment, President Obama’s health care reform would already be the “law of the land.” But, Planned Parenthood and its pro-abortion allies would not permit that to happen, and now taxpayer-subsidized abortion coverage has become the key issue the President’s health care reform plan hinges upon.

The Stupak Amendment would have ensured that government subsidies would not go toward any private insurance plans that cover abortions while participating in the newly-created health insurance Exchange. In other words, the Stupak amendment would have provided that individuals who fall within 150-400% of the federal poverty level (and who choose to accept affordability credits from the government to help pay for insurance) must choose a plan that does not cover elective abortions.

Importantly, the Stupak Amendment would have required every insurance company that included an abortion-coverage plan in the Exchange to also include a second plan identical to the first plan except that it would not cover abortion. Therefore, everyone who purchases insurance through the Exchange would have access to the same coverage, with the only exception being that those who receive affordability credits could not use those government dollars to purchase insurance plans that include abortion coverage.

This system would have been in keeping with existing law. The Hyde Amendment and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) both prohibit the use of federal dollars to subsidize insurance plans that cover abortions.

Unfortunately, the commonsense Stupak amendment is not even on the table right now. In fact, Planned Parenthood is not even satisfied with the Senate abortion language, which allows direct subsidization of insurance plans that cover abortions. In their view, abortion should be treated no differently than any other medical procedure, and, for political and financial gain, they cavalierly equate mere access to abortion services with quality health care for women. This is a corrupt and dangerous tactic.

In reality, our nation’s abortion clinics are not as well regulated as veterinarian clinics or tattoo parlors. Too many of them are, in fact, the “back alleys” that abortion advocates purported to warn us about.

Just this past February, a Pennsylvania abortion clinic was shut down when investigators found “deplorable and unsanitary” conditions and learned that unlicensed clinic staff were performing gynecological exams and illegally administering federally-controlled medications. That same month, state officials put an Alabama Planned Parenthood clinic on probation for willfully failing to comply with the state’s parental consent law. These cases prove that mere access to abortion does not promote quality health care for women.

Medical evidence has increasingly shown the risks of abortion, including hemorrhaging, a punctured uterus, a torn cervix, increased risk of pre-term birth and other risks in subsequent pregnancies, depression, suicidal ideation, and even death.

It is very telling that several of Planned Parenthood’s recent advertisements neglect to advocate access to “safe” abortion, but instead focus on “affordable” abortion. Abortion is not “safe,” and neither Planned Parenthood nor taxpayer-subsidized access to abortion can make it safe. But, access to “affordable” abortions via health care reform will benefit Planned Parenthood, and that’s the bottom line.

Mary Harned is Staff Counsel with Americans United for Life. Denise Burke is Vice President of Legal Affairs for Americans United for Life.