U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) has been taking to Twitter to criticize the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill moving through Congress as a “bailout” for Planned Parenthood and to claim that it “frees up $414 billion in funding for elective abortions.”
The American Rescue Plan, which was passed in the U.S. House early Saturday, includes $1,400 direct stimulus payments for many Americans in addition to enhanced unemployment benefits and funding for vaccinations, testing, and tracing.
The proposal has been rejected by the Republican Party, with some Republicans, like Boebert, claiming that the bill provides funding for abortion.
“The COVID-19 Relief Bill, also known as the ‘Biden Blue State Bailout’ frees up $414 billion in funding for elective abortions,” Boebert tweeted last week before voting against the measure. “A COVID-19 relief bill should not include ONE DIME for abortion, or frankly for any other issue other than COVID RELIEF!”
In a video posted on her official congressional account, Boebert says, “They’re trying to tag it as the American rescue plan. I was doing a little research, and let me tell you the rescue that’s in this — A bailout for Planned Parenthood.”
While the legislation makes no mention of abortion or Planned Parenthood, there are a couple of issues at play that have anti-abortion lawmakers riled up as Congress tries to provide COVID relief.
First, the bill does not include the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. For more than 40 years, the provision has been attached to Congressional budget bills and is annually renewed by Congress. Previous COVID relief legislation included Hyde Amendment language, but the bill that was passed by the U.S. House last week does not. Because the American Rescue Plan provides health care subsidies, Republicans want to include the Hyde Amendment to ensure that the bill isn’t subsidizing health insurance plans that cover abortions.
Second, the bill includes $50 million in funding for the Title X family planning program, which provides funding for contraception, STD testing, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services for low-income and uninsured people. Abortion, however, is excluded as a family planning method under the program. Despite the fact that providing affordable contraception reduces the abortion rate, Republicans have been critical of the program due to the fact that Planned Parenthood has been a major recipient of Title X funding. The Biden Administration is in the process of undoing a Trump Administration rule that forced Planned Parenthood out of the Title X program, but that process could take some time.
These are nuanced and complicated policy issues, but it’s a major stretch to characterize the bill as a Planned Parenthood bailout or insinuate that the bill includes hundreds of billions of dollars in abortion funding.
In response to an email to Boebert’s office asking how she arrived at the $414 billion number, Communications Director Benjamin Stout wrote, “The absence of the Hyde language in the COVID bill means $414 billion could be used to pay for elective abortion or plans that cover elective abortion.”
To illustrate what a gross exaggeration this is, let’s pretend that nearly a quarter of the $1.9 trillion relief bill does, in fact, go toward abortion coverage. The United States is projected to have 77 million women of childbearing age by the year 2025. The average cost of an abortion is about $500, according to the Guttmacher Institute. If the United States government provides $414 billion in abortion funding, that covers over 10 abortion procedures for each woman who can get pregnant.
Stout did not reply to a subsequent email asking him to explain the math and whether it’s an exaggeration for Boebert to insinuate that the bill could cover the cost of ten abortions for each woman of childbearing age in the United States.