Stupak’s NYT Op-Ed: Congresswoman Capps Responds

Here is the response to Stupak’s NYT Op-Ed By Rep. Lois Capps Created Dec 10 2009 – 7:00am

Published on RHRealityCheck.org (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org)

On Wednesday, December 9th, the New York Times published an op-ed by Congressman Bart Stupak in which he makes misleading claims about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the House Health Care Reform bill.  Here, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), author of the Capps Amendment, provides a reality check to the claims in that op-ed.

 Stupak Claim:  Our amendment maintains current law, which says that there should be no federal financing for abortion.

Reality:   The Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes well beyond current law by contracting access to abortion services and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment its proponents claim.  It dramatically restricts consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that include coverage for abortion services in the health exchange.  In contrast the Capps Amendment, which was included in the original version of the House bill, continued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services, but did so without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical procedure when it is paid for with private funds.  Reputable third parties, like a recent study from George Washington University [1], have found that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for entirely with private funds

Stupak Claim:  Under our amendment, women who receive federal subsidies will be prohibited from using them to pay for insurance policies that cover abortion. The amendment does not prevent private plans from offering abortion services and it does not prohibit women from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money. The amendment specifically states that even those who receive federal subsidies can purchase a supplemental policy with private money to cover abortions.

Reality:  There is nothing in the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to ensure that riders are available or affordable to individuals purchasing coverage in the Exchange.  There is no evidence that insurance companies actually offer such riders in the five states that currently require women to purchase a separate rider for abortion coverage.  It is not practical to expect women to plan ahead for an unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that goes terribly wrong, by purchasing a supplemental rider.  Furthermore, if only women of childbearing age purchase such a rider then the premium for the rider will likely cost almost as much as the service.

Stupak Claim:  Some opponents of the amendment have tried to argue that it would effectively end health insurance coverage of abortion in both the private and public sectors. This argument is nothing more than a scare tactic.

Reality:  It is highly unlikely that any insurance plan is going to go through the pain staking process of setting up two separate plans —one with abortion services offered and one without – to cater to less than 20% of the Exchange participants who are allowed to buy plans that include abortion services. As noted by Robert Laszewski, consultant to the insurance industry, in a recent interview with NPR [2], it wouldn’t make any business sense to offer a plan that would only be available to such a small number of potential customers. A recent report by George Washington University similarly concluded that the effect of the Stupak amendment would “militate against the creation of a supplemental coverage market.”  The argument that this amendment won’t restrict access for women who are paying for insurance entirely out of their own pockets is false.

Stupak Claim:  The language in our amendment is completely consistent with the Hyde Amendment, which in the 33 years since its passage has done nothing to inhibit private health insurers from offering abortion coverage. There is no reason to believe that a continuation of this policy would suddenly create undue hardship for the insurance industry — or for those who wish to use their private insurance to pay for an abortion.

Reality:  The Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes well beyond current law by contracting access to abortion services and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment its proponents claim.  The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion in Medicaid programs except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the women, but it allows states to use their own funds to pay for abortions in other cases.  Applying this same principle, the Capps Amendment, would have prohibited federal funding to pay directly for abortions in insurance plans in the Exchange, but would allow plans to pay for these services using private funding from patient premiums.  Just as churches and military contractors are able to segregate federal funds from other sources of funding, insurance companies can do the same. 

Stupak Claim:  Given that insurance companies are able to offer separate plans with and without abortion coverage now, it seems likely that they would be able to continue to do so on the newly established health insurance exchange.

Reality:  The Stupak-Pitts Amendment severely limits private plans’ ability to cover abortions.  The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit any abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions within the public option and any plans sold in the Exchange to individuals who receive affordability credits.  Although insurance companies are permitted to offer plans that cover abortion to individuals who do not receive affordability credits, they would only be able to do so if they offered two nearly identical plans with the only difference being coverage and exclusion of abortion services.   Furthermore health insurance companies would be unlikely to even offer a plan that does receive any funding from affordability credits because the risk pool would be too small.  In effect, this ensures there will not be any private plans covering abortion available to individuals and small businesses that purchase health insurance in the new Exchange. 

Stupak Claim:  It is also disingenuous to argue (as some have) that it would be a hardship for insurance companies to provide plans with and without abortion coverage — when the health care bill as introduced in the House and Senate mandated exactly that. Under language suggested by Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California, the new insurance exchange would be required to provide at least one plan that covers abortion and one plan that does not. If offering separate abortion-free plans in this way was acceptable under the Capps language (which has been endorsed by abortion-rights groups), then it should also be acceptable under the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts Amendment.

Reality:  Under the Capps language the Exchange would have to ensure that there is at least one plan that does not include abortion services and one that does.  These plans could be offered by the same company or different companies, so long as consumers were offered at least one of each option.  In contrast the Stupak-Pitts Amendment requires private plans that want to offer a comprehensive plan including abortion services – and most private plans currently do offer comprehensive plans – they would have to offer an identical plan that does not include abortion services.  So if Blue Cross Blue Shield wanted to offer a comprehensive plan they would also have to offer an identical plan without those services.  According to insurance industry consultants like Robert Laszewski [2] it wouldn’t make any business sense to offer a plan that would only be available to such a small number of potential customers (since less than 20 percent of the exchange customers would even be allowed to purchase a comprehensive plan).  And that is why anyone in the Exchange – even those paying for insurance completely on their own – wouldn’t have access to abortion coverage.  The argument that this amendment won’t restrict access for women who are paying for insurance entirely out of their own pockets is false. 

Stupak Claim:  While many accusations have been thrown around in recent months, the intent behind our amendment is simple and clear: to continue current law, which says that there should be no federal financing of abortions. Our intent was not to change, add or take anything away from federal law.

Reality:  Again, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes well beyond current law by contracting access to abortion services and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment its proponents claim.  Regardless of intent, the amendment does dramatically restrict consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that include coverage for abortion services in the health exchange.  In contrast the Capps Amendment continued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services, but did so without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical procedure when it is paid for with private funds.  Reputable third parties, like a recent study from George Washington University, have found that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for entirely with private funds

Stupak Claim:  This goal is consistent with the opinion of a majority of Americans. Recent CNN and Washington Post-ABC News polls found that 61 percent of Americans do not want taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. And while the Senate voted down a similar amendment on Tuesday, I’m hopeful that the spirit of our legislation will make it into the final bill.

Reality:  The Capps language is consistent with both current law and public opinion because it explicitly prohibits federal funding for abortion services except those allowed by the Hyde Amendment:  rape, incest, and to protect the life of the woman.  Furthermore, recent polling conducted by the Mellman Group found that:

  • 54% of voters would oppose a health care reform plan that prevented private insurance plans from covering abortion. 
  • 56% of voters believe that those who receive partial subsidies should be able to buy plans that cover abortion – surpassing those who oppose this choice by a 20 point margin.
  • 52% of voters support the “Capps compromise,” which would prohibit federal dollars, including partial subsidies, from being used to pay for abortions, though abortions could be paid using private funds generated by patients’ premiums.
  • 47% agreed that “Political differences should not prevent us from moving forward on an otherwise good healthcare reform plan.”

  As pollster Mark Mellman noted [3]a column in The Hill recently [3], “Americans do not want reform to be an excuse for tightening restrictions on abortion or for taking away health coverage millions already have. Nor do they want an abortion debate to stop reform. Voters want an abortion-neutral healthcare reform.”

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Senate rejects abortion measure in health bill

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson’s amendment to tighten the bill’s restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortions, identical to a provision approved by the House of Representatives last month, was killed on a 54-45 vote.

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December 2nd – Stop Stupak! Abortion Rights Rally in Chicago!

Please join the Illinois Choice Action Team for a “Stop Stupak, Abortion Rights” rally in front of the Thompson Center in Chicago on Wednesday, December 2nd from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm. Bring your signs and plenty of pro-choice spirit!

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Chicago Progressive Radio – Chicago NOW Discusses the Stupak Amendment

Listen to Chicago NOW discuss the Stupak Amendment with Dick Kay on Chicago Progressive Radio!

http://www.doogiesplace.com/backonbeat111409.mp3

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Anthony Abbate Trial Summary

Chicago NOW attended today’s long overdue police review board trial of Anthony Abbate.  The entire proceeding lasted from approximately 10:45am to 3pm.  I was able to see Anthony, Karolina and several other key witnesses and we learned some new and interesting details.

The transcript and video of the trial will now be turned over to the board, who will review the trial and make a decision when they meet in December.  Hopefully there will not be a delay due to the holidays.

The first person to take the stand was Anthony Abbate.  He’s just as large and red-faced in person as he seems on TV.  He invoked his 5th amendment right and refused to answer any questions.  One can only assume that his reluctance to answer questions is due to the fact that he is appealing his conviction.  During the questioning, the prosecution showed various video clips from the day of the assault beginning at 4pm, when Abbate originally came to the bar, and ending around 8:30 or 9pm when he fled after the beating.

The video is much longer than anything that has been released in the news.  It chronicles the entire day beginning with Anthony entering the bar early in the evening and immediately attacking his friend Mike.  Apparently Mike had insulted Anthony’s dog earlier that day, so Abbate came into the bar to both verbally and physically assault Mike.  The bartender on duty at the time, Peggy, tells Abbate to leave after the altercation.

Around 2 hours later Abbate returns to the bar and appears to be intoxicated.  It’s not clear if he was already drunk earlier in the day.  He’s shown drinking a high ball, some beer and then taking shots.  He spends most of the night singing off key to the Eagle’s greatest hits and harassing his friend Jimmy by punching him, putting him in a headlock and repeatedly taking his hat… yeah, taking his hat away.  As the woman next to me remarked, this is not my kind of fun.  After a while, Jimmy goes to the other side of the bar to avoid Abbate’s obnoxious behavior.

Apparently this was the first time that Karolina and Abbate had met at the bar although he was a regular patron.  As one can assume, Abbate tries desperately to win the attention of Karolina by calling her pet names and paying her empty compliments.  As he drinks, he starts playing a game where he flexes his muscles and announces that he’s Chicago Police… it’s really gross.  He continues to “flex” and tries to tempt Karolina to touch his body, but she’s really not interested in playing along and attempts to ignore his requests.

Abbate makes two attempts to come behind the bar; the second attempt results in the brutal beating of Karolina.  What shocked me even more is that we now know that the patrons in the bar were all acquainted and none of them attempted to do anything to intervene with the beating outside of telling Abbate that he should stop.

Most of the witnesses, including the victim of the first assault and the other bar tender, pled the 5th and refused to answer questions.  However, we did get to hear belligerent arguments and accusations from Mike, Abbate’s friend and victim.  He was really the least pleasant person I have ever encountered and I get the feeling that he’s hiding something.  Mike began with his outrage over the lack of bottled water and ended by accusing the prosecutor of plotting against him and ruining his pheasant hunting trip.

The most interesting details learned during the trial:

  1. Abbate allegedly sent a friend to try to pay off Karolina before she filed charges.
  2. Abbate threatened to harass patrons and intentionally give out DUI’s to exiting patrons when he learned that the bar owner intended to release the security tape.
  3. Abbate knew he was being taped while the beating occurred.  His friend Jimmy told him he was on camera just before delivering the first punch to Karolina.
  4. Abbate allegedly threatened to plant cocaine on the other bartender, Peggy, who came to Karolina’s defense.

The prosecution delivered closing arguments and now we will wait for the Police Review Board to review the tapes and make a decision.  The Board only meets once a month, so we will likely hear back from them in December or January.

CNOW will keep you posted as more details develop…

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Tuesday, November 17th – Anthony Abbate Trial – Day 1

Members of Chicago NOW will be in attendance at Anthony Abbate’s Police Review board trial at 10am on Tuesday.  The dates are set for Nov 17th & 23rd.  This trial will determine if he will be fired from the Chicago Police Department!

The trial is open to the public:

November 17th & 23rd

10AM

30 North LaSalle Street
Suite 1220
Chicago, IL 60602

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Sign a Petition to Protect a Woman’s Right to Choose!

From our friends at Planned Parenthood…

When it passed a historic health care reform bill, the House also adopted the Stupak amendment, a dangerous piece of legislation that would ban abortion from private and public insurance plans for millions of American women. Fortunately, the fight for women’s health didn’t end in the House, and our sharp focus is now on the Senate. We are demanding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ensure that language similar to the Stupak amendment does not become part of the Senate health care reform bill.

Take Action NOW!

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