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Molly Moorhead
By Molly Moorhead September 26, 2012

PAC ad says Obama will force Christian groups to pay for abortions

A super PAC called Government is Not God is running an ad in newspapers around the country warning readers of dire consequences if the president wins a second term.

"Barack Hussein Obama," the ad says, "will move America to force Christian organizations to pay for abortion."

That claim tops a list of numerous charges about abortion, immigration, Islam and even the Declaration of Independence, which we’ll look at in separate-fact checks.

For this one, the topic is abortion.

HHS rule

The claim is based on a rule to implement the new health care law that was announced in January 2012 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. It addressed women’s preventive health services that must be covered by insurers without a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible.

At issue is how much organizations with religious ties would be bound by the rule.

It was a clarification of the provision in the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare, for co-pay-free preventive care. For individual and small-group plans, the law requires that policies cover "essential health benefits." The idea of co-pay-free preventive care stems from studies that show that even moderate co-pays kept women from getting care, such as mammograms or pap smears, according to HHS. The nongovernmental Institute of Medicine recommended that preventive services include all FDA-approved forms of contraception: physical methods such as condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps and IUDs, as well as hormonal methods such as the pill, implants and hormone shots. It includes emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and Ella, though not so-called "abortion drugs" like RU-486 that end early pregnancy by blocking the activity of progesterone.

Most health insurance plans will have to cover them without a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible. For most new and renewed health plans, that requirement kicked in Aug. 1, 2012.

Religious exemptions
The HHS rule provides an exemption for "certain non-profit religious employers" that meet a four-part test -- essentially churches and synagogues, but also some primary and secondary religious schools. That left other religious-affiliated organizations, such as universities and hospitals, outside the exemption and in a position where they could be required to cover services to which they have a moral objection.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with other groups and conservative leaders, rose up to fight the rule. Here’s why: Plan B and Ella -- the "morning-after pill" -- prevent fertilization of an egg, but taken later can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. To some, that’s tantamount to inducing an abortion.

"In a Catholic moral perspective and in the view of many other pro-life people, this is an early abortifacient effect, not merely contraceptive, because it ends a life that has already come into being. However, federal law would not define this as an abortion, because it only covers the interruption of an implanted pregnancy," Richard Doerflinger, associate director of Pro-Life Activities at the bishops conference, told PolitiFact.

In response to the uproar, the administration offered a compromise in February, requiring insurance companies instead of employers to cover contraception if the employer objects. The organizations were also given an extra year to comply with the rule.

A White House fact sheet says religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception, religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception, and contraceptive coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.

To those objecting to the rule, the compromise is little more than a shell game.

Said Doerflinger: "The actual money for this coverage will still come from the premiums paid in by the employer and employee. … The Catholic employer, as much as before, is deprived of its freedom to provide a health plan (and its employees are deprived of the freedom to receive a health plan, for themselves and their minor children) that conforms to their moral and religious principles."

More than two dozen lawsuits against the Obama administration over the rule are pending around the country.

So, is the claim accurate?

Doerflinger says yes.

"The mandate includes drugs that can cause an abortion; and we haven’t seen a workable scenario in which the money for covering such drugs comes from anywhere but the premiums paid by many Christian employers and their employees," he said.

We also asked NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, for its take:

"The new contraceptive-coverage policy referenced in the claim … will not force Christian organizations to pay for abortion. The policy requires coverage of all FDA-approved forms of birth control, including emergency contraception (EC). EC is not abortion, rather, it prevents pregnancy. Therefore, no one is required to cover abortion under this policy," said Samantha Gordon, spokeswoman for NARAL. "Also, the administration explicitly exempts religious houses of worship from the contraceptive-coverage requirement. Moreover, the policy allows religiously affiliated employers that presently refuse to offer their employees contraceptive coverage a one-year grace period to come into compliance. These organizations also will be allowed to opt out of the policy permanently if they oppose it."

Our conclusion: There is a narrow window in this claim that has some truth.

The wording -- "Christian organizations will be forced to pay for abortions" -- is clearly an overreach. Christian organizations won’t be "forced" to hand over money for abortion procedures performed at clinics by doctors.

But because employers are now required to provide health insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act (or otherwise face fines) and because that law dictates that preventive care must be provided at no cost to the insured person, there is some force being applied by the federal government. Preventive care, as defined by HHS, encompasses birth control, emergency contraceptives and sterilization -- health services that some people equate with abortion.

Overall, the statement creates a misleading impression. But that one element of truth leads us to rate it Mostly False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

PolitiFact, PAC's newspaper ad filled with falsehoods," Sept. 26, 2012

GING-PAC newspaper ad, September 2012

GING-PAC website, "Campaign to save America from Barack Hussein Obama," accessed Sept. 25 & 26, 2012

PolitiFact, "Newt Gingrich says government would impose 'Obamacare' standards on religious institutions," Jan. 31, 2012

Health and Human Services, "A statement by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius," Jan. 20, 2012, "Essential Health Benefits: HHS Informational Bulletin," Dec. 16, 2011

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, "About the IOM," accessed Sept. 25, 2012, "Affordable Care Act Rules on Expanding Access to Preventive Services for Women," Aug. 1, 2011

PolitiFact, "The health care law, Catholics and birth control," Feb. 10, 2012

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "USCCB: HHS Mandate for Contraceptive and Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights," Aug. 1, 2011, "FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions," Feb. 10, 2012

Email interview with Kara Carscaden, Obama campaign, Sept. 25 & 26, 2012

Email interview with Richard Doerflinger, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sept. 26, 2012

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Twelve Things Everyone Should Know About the ‘Contraceptive Mandate,’" May 17, 2012

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