By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 11/20/2009 11:31:16 AM ET 2009-11-20T16:31:16

Claim: The Senate insurance bill's abortion restrictions are less stringent than the House bill's.

The bill passed by the House includes an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D- Mich. and others that bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions or "to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion," except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The provision is limited to plans offered in the new marketplaces, or exchanges, but George Washington University’s School of Public Health concluded that it "will have an industry-wide effect," eliminating coverage of abortions "for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange." Nothing in the Stupak amendment bars people from buying supplemental coverage that paid for abortions, if it were available, or to pay for an abortion with their own money.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. The Senate bill says that no federal money may be used to pay for abortion services, but the bill would use taxpayer subsidies to help people shop for coverage on the state-based exchanges created by the bill. The bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to "assure" that at least one plan in each of those exchanges offers abortion coverage. The enrollee's money to pay for abortion would be put in segregated accounts. Abortion rights advocates, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, applauded the Senate bill's abortion provision, while Stupak denounced it. It is not clear whether anti-abortion senators will insist on stricter language. Nor is it clear whether the 64 House Democrats who voted for the Stupak amendment would accept the less stringent Senate language or vote to scuttle the final bill if it omits the Stupak restrictions.

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