Family Research Council Ad: Fear, Not Facts

July 29, 2009 12:56 pm ET — Melinda Warner

One of the several emerging misleading arguments against health insurance reform is that the reform legislation will allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.  Now, the Family Research Council has released an ad that implies that Planned Parenthood's funding of reproductive services will somehow prevent another individual from undergoing surgery.

This is a gross distortion. 

None of the current health insurance reform bills directly address the issue of abortion.  Currently, private insurance companies make their own decisions on whether or not abortion is a covered procedure.  Current reform efforts will continue in that vein and allow consumers to choose a plan, through the Exchange, that is provided by a company that is in line with their own moral decision about abortion. According to Planned Parenthood: "Nothing in any of the current health care reform bills mandates abortion coverage - or any other type of medical procedure - in the Exchange. Abortion is not mandated any more than any other medical procedure in health care reform."

Nevertheless, the Mellman Group found that 66% of Americans support covering abortion under reform measures and 72% "would feel angry if Congress mandated by law that abortion would not be covered under a national health care plan."

The Family Research Council is correct that Planned Parenthood receives federal funding.  But, contrary to conservative belief, Planned Parenthood provides a variety of services - 97% of which are not abortion related.  According to their 2007 summary report, they provided 10.9 million services:

  • 31% (3.4 million) - Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections Testing and Treatment, for men and women
  • 17% (1.9 million) - Cancer Screening and Prevention
  • 11% (1.2 million) - Other Women's Health Services, including pregnancy testing and prenatal care
  • 3% (305,000) - Abortion Services
  • 2% (255,000) - Other Services, including adoption referrals
  • 36% (3.8 million) - Contraception, including tubal ligation and vasectomy surgeries.
[figures rounded]

All this posturing around abortion is just another way the opposition is distorting the move to reform our health care delivery system in an effort to slow down or kill the legislation.  The issue of abortion has always been, and probably always will be, a sensitive issue.  Lawmakers and policy wonks are fully aware of this and are seeking to find common ground between the pro-life and pro-choice groups.  The fact remains, however, that millions of Americans are suffering under the current health care system. 

Supporting life may mean fighting voluntary abortions, but it should also mean supporting efforts to make sure Americans live healthy lives by having access to basic health care.