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With abortion now a key issue in the debate over health care reform, abortion rights supporters are highlighting President Barack Obama's promise about the issue during the presidential campaign.
In an alert to members on Nov. 9, 2009, Planned Parenthood Action Fund said, "President Obama campaigned on a promise to put reproductive health care at the center of his reform plan."
We'll address that claim here. We'll also be adding it to our Obameter database of campaign promises.
The group's claim is virtually identical to one made in September by House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who said in a statement that, "during his quest for the presidency, now-President Obama declared that everyone deserves access to reproductive health care that includes abortion, and vowed that this 'right' would be at the heart of his health care reform plan if elected president."
We researched Boehner's claim and concluded he was right about Obama's promise. We rated the statement True .
To explore Obama's promise on abortion coverage in his health care plan, you need to go back to a July 17, 2007, speech he gave to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In that speech, he discussed his commitment to how "reproductive care" -- a term a campaign aide said included abortion coverage -- would fit into his health care reform plan.
Obama said, "In my mind, reproductive care is essential care. It is basic care, so it is at the center and at the heart of the plan that I propose. Essentially what we're doing is, we’re going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don’t have health insurance. It will be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services, as well as mental health services and disease management services, because part of our interest is to make sure that we’re putting more money into preventive care."
The words Obama used in that speech mirror those in the Planned Parenthood Action Fund's recent alert even more closely than they did Boehner's formulation. So it's certainly correct, as the group says, that Obama "campaigned on a promise to put reproductive health care at the center of his reform plan."
It's worth nothing that since he spoke to that group -- an important constituency for someone seeking the Democratic nomination -- he has chosen his words carefully.
Of all the words Obama has spoken and written about health care reform since 2007 -- a voluminous amount, to be sure -- the terms "abortion" and "reproductive health" haven't popped up very often. Indeed, on several of the rare occasions in which Obama or his staff have broached the subject, it's been to assure Americans that his health care proposal would not promote abortions.
For instance, in his prime-time address to Congress on Sept. 9, 2009, Obama's only mention of abortion -- which came immediately after he was interrupted by the heckling Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. -- was that "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."
That's a reflection of the sensitivity surrounding the issue. Obama's promise to the abortion rights group during the primary campaign could now be a liability before a broader audience that includes many people opposed to abortion rights.
Still, Planned Parenthood is correct that Obama campaigned on a promise that he would put reproductive health care at the center of his reform plan." After all, he was speaking to . . . Planned Parenthood. So we find the group's claim to be True.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund,
to members on abortion coverage in the House health care bill, accessed Nov. 10, 2009
Barack Obama, remarks before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007
Barack Obama, address to a joint session of Congress on health care, Sept. 9, 2009
Chicago Tribune, " Democrats pledge support for wide access to abortion ," July 18, 2007
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