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Associated Press Falsely Claims 90 Percent of Insurance Plans Cover Abortion

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 22
, 2009

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Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- The Associated Press is getting dogged from pro-life advocates who say the news service recently misreported that 90 percent of private insurance plans pay for abortions. However, the figure is likely the other way around and AP may have relied on a faulty pro-abortion study for its figures.

In a Tuesday news story titled, "Abortion is latest controversy in health overhaul," AP asserted that "nearly 90 percent of employer-based private insurance plans routinely cover abortion."

Writing at the Weekly Standard, John McCormack says the statistic is simply "not true."

He points to April testimony from Obama HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who told members of the Senate that "Most private plans do not cover abortion services except in limited instances."

He also notes that AP could have looked to coverage from Congressional Quarterly, which reported as recently as July 15 that, "Most people with employer-sponsored insurance also must pay for abortions out of their own pocket."

CQ cited Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s trade association, who said, "Most insurers offer plans that include this coverage, but most employers choose not to offer it as part of their benefits package."

McCormack says AP likely relied on the pro-abortion research group, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, for the 90 percent figure. A recent AGI study claimed "nearly 90% of insurers cover abortion procedures."

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee told the Weekly Standard how the number is wrong and the study biased.

"This report was based on voluntary responses sent to AGI by insurers who were selected by AGI to be surveyed by complicated criteria described in the report," he said. "Moreover, the report itself said that 'some of the insurers reporting that abortion was covered narrowly interpreted this to mean when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health.'"

"Clearly, then, AGI arrived at the 87% figure by counting any respondent in its sample that covered abortion even to save the life of the mother. Thus, this report is essentially useless in estimating the extent of private insurance coverage of elective abortion," Johnson explained.

McCormack describes the flaws of the AGI study another way.

"If the NRA sends out a questionnaire, most pro-gun-control candidates simply won't respond. The same phenomenon surely occurred with health insurance companies that do not provide abortions not responding to the Guttmacher Institute, which was once formally connected to Planned Parenthood, and remains ideologically committed to legalized and taxpayer-subsidized abortion," he writes.

A different analysis found that 46 percent of private health insurance plans cover abrotions.

During the Reagan administration, Dr. Robert Moffitt was the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and he noted the figure in May 2008.

"Forty-six percent of workers today in employer-based health insurance finance abortion," he said.

Moffitt suggested that employers and employees find out whether their insurance company pays for abortions. If so, he urged pro-life advocates to switch to another health care plan or look to one of the many plans funded by Catholic and Protestant Christian groups that don't include abortion coverage.

Though the Associated Press misreported what private insurance plans do in terms of covering elective abortions, McCormack says there is a larger problem to consider -- especially when it comes to the debate over a government-run health care plan.

"The real issue here isn't whether or not private plans cover abortions--it's whether or not American taxpayers should have to pay for abortions, something that is wildly unpopular and has been prohibited since 1976 by the Hyde amendment," he writes.

"Pro-abortion advocates, however, have been spinning an argument that since most employer based plans cover abortions--which, in fact, they do not as noted above--then Obama's public plan and subsidized insurance plans should require abortion coverage as well," he continues.


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