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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Opponents of private option attack health plans for covering contraception

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 2:04 PM

The latest attack on the private option: opponents are criticizing the contraceptive coverage in the health insurance that 170,000 low-income Arkansans have gained via the private option. 

David Ferguson — Director of Governmental Affairs for Conduit for Actionone of ten advocacy groups opposed to the private option co-founded and funded by Fayetteville businessman Joe Maynard, which have spent tens of thousands of dollars this election cycle — put up a blog post earlier this week arguing that the private option pays for "abortion services." Both the federal Hyde amendment and state law prevent the private option plans from offering elective abortions — with exceptions for rape, incest, and preventing the death of the mother. Ferguson alludes to these exceptions, and it's certainly possible that a poor woman in Arkansas who was raped, or who had a life-threatening pregnancy, might have health insurance thanks to the private option. I'm not sure what CFA's position is on exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother (I asked Ferguson and he said, "opinions vary and I merely informed"). But in a followup post, Ferguson makes clear that their real focus is on contraception. The private option does cover contraception, including the morning-after pill and IUDs. Ferguson argues that these forms of contraception are abortion. 

Sound familiar? Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration over the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that large employers provide contraception coverage in health insurance plans they offer (the Supreme Court will likely rule this month). As Ferguson frames it, Hobby Lobby believes that "certain drugs labeled as 'contraceptives' are actually drugs that kill babies...Those same life ending items that Hobby Lobby is fighting against are required to be available through the Private Option, which is paid by taxpayers."

I called Arkansas Right to Life to get their take and Executive Director Rose Mimms told me the group does not take a position on contraceptive methods like Plan B (the morning after pill) and does not consider that to be abortion. Of course, other folks in the pro-life movement may feel differently. These disputes often hinge on complicated, technical details about fertilization (and I'm a little skeptical that there is a critical mass of voters who will turn their opinion on the private option over something like copper IUDs), but that's almost beside the point. Opponents of the private option are hoping they can stir the hornet's nest. "Private option = abortion services," says the CFA headline.  

Have heard rumors that there is a radio ad on this issue attacking Rep. John Burris, one of the key Republican architects of the private option, who is currently in a runoff in the GOP primary for an open state senate seat with Scott Flippo, owner of a Bull Shoals assisted living facility. Ferguson said that the ad did not come from CFA. ***UPDATE: The ad is from the Ozark Tea Party and can be heard here  — it says that because the private option covers forms of contraception like Plan B and IUDs, Burris can't be trusted to "stand up for babies in their mother's womb."

p.s. Not that it will convince anyone who believes them to be baby killers, but copper IUDs, which give women a non-hormonal option, are one of the most cost-effective and reliable forms of birth control.


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