Last week, in a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court found that Susan B. Anthony List could challenge an Ohio law criminalizing certain “false” political speech on First Amendment grounds. The case goes back to 2010, when then-congressman Steve Driehaus tried to use the law to stop SBA-List from running billboard ads accusing him of voting for authorizing taxpayer funds for abortion through Obamacare.
The SBA-List argued that it wasn’t fighting “for a right to lie” but “arguing that we have a right not to have the truth of our political statements be judged by the government.” That’s a tremendous point, of course. Though a popular idea among Democratic Senators, allowing the state to determine the veracity of political speech is a chilling intrusion on free expression. But, in this instance, it’s also worthwhile to point out that it was Driehaus who offered false statements.
There was a time, you’ll probably remember, when contending that Obamacare subsidies would cover elective abortions was considered a “myth”– pure fear mongering, cooked up by the fringiest crackpots of the right. Well, as with some other alleged conspiracy theories about the administration, annoying facts keep popping up to bolster them.
In a report requested for by eight Republicans House members, the GAO found that 18 insurance providers in 28 states made no attempt to limit access to abortion coverage. And though the Office of Personnel Management is theoretically tasked with making sure at least one insurance plan in each exchange does not cover abortions at all, in states like Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont, every insurance plan on the exchanges offered elective abortion. Yes, it’s against the rules. What are you going to do about it?
Much like the administration, it seems the private sector is free to interpret the law in a way it feels comfortable. Certainly you can imagine the shrieking hysteria we’d have live through if a government accountability report found 18 insurance companies in 28 states had determined on their own to, say, stop providing mandated contraception coverage through ACA? A person might end up in front of the Supreme Court. Yet, alleged ignorance of the law and blatant avoidance of the provisions companies don’t care to follow was greeted with only muted headlines. By the time it’s over, the entire incident will be covered as if it were a partisan nitpick by the GOP. That’s the way these things go.
So don’t mention the pervasiveness lawlessness in DC. So dramatic, right? Don’t mention that the president has broken a promise that was specifically made to the American people in an attempt to pressure/assure/scam certain Senators and House member to pass ACA. “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place,” he claimed in 2009. It also breaks the useless executive order Obama issued to provide cover for the dwindling faction of pro-life Democrats.
Don’t get me wrong. It never mattered in substance, anyway. Even back then most people knew Obamacare’s abortion compromise was useless. Here’s how Barbara Boxer explained it (via Townhall):
Boxer, who has received a 100% approval rating from groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood year after year since her election to the Senate in 1992, had been a featured speaker at an abortion-rights rally in Washington, D.C., just weeks before she became involved in the ‘abortion compromise.” Following her decision to agree to the Nelson language, groups like the National Organization for Women, the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and the National Institute for Reproductive Health issued blistering criticism of the senator. National Institute for Reproductive Health president Kelli Conlin said the Senate bill “has sold out women” and described its as “”unconscionable.”
But not to worry, Boxer told McClatchy News Service. Boxer, reported McClatchy, “said it’s only an ‘accounting procedure’ that will do nothing to restrict [abortion] coverage.”
She was right, of course. Even if the law is enforced, all it means is that insurance providers will have more paperwork to do as they funnel fungible dollars to wherever they’re needed. The “compromise” in Obamacare was an assurance that a person would simply pay twice if they wanted an abortion. You could use subsidizes to purchase traditional insurance and use your own personal funds to terminate babies. So what? Around 87 percent of people who bought a plan on HealthCare.gov during the last enrollment period did so using some level of subsidy. Does the insurance company care how it gets paid for each? Subsidizes is taxpayer-funded health-care cash. And whether ACA subsidizes are spent on the procedure directly or indirectly might very well assuage a congressman’s conscience, or perhaps even fool some of his constituents, but it is, by any real measure, irrelevant.
And this has gone on since we passed the Hyde Amendment in 1976. So when Planned Parenthood receives $540.6 million of federal funding, each of those interchangeable taxpayer dollars is being “invested” in the abortion business.
And let’s not forget Medicaid’s role – a program expanded through Obamacare. As my colleague Ben Domenech pointed out not long ago:
While the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, state funding has no such prohibition. Medicaid is the primary payer for 41% of births nationwide, including 60% in New York City and 70% in Louisiana. It also pays for a sizable number of abortions. And this absolutely has an impact: the trendline for Medicaid funded abortions have only increased during the recession, and will only continue to increase under Obama’s Medicaid expansion. And funding has a dramatic impact—this survey of academic literature from Guttmacher notes: “Approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable.”
SBA-List’s billboards were truthful then, and they’re truthful now.