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Does the 'Private' Option Fund Abortion? Many Pro-Life Experts Say 'Yes'

Updated: Apr 13

David Ferguson of Conduit For Action made a splash last week when he published a new paper entitled, “Private Option = Abortion Services.” The paper succeeded in setting Twitter ablaze, causing several legislators to lash out. Speaker Davy Carter even called the report “lies.” But the important issue here isn’t whether or not lawmakers like the paper or agree with its conclusion. What is important is: are the claims true? Does the Obamacare “private” option cover abortion services? I am far from an abortion expert, but it is clear in the terms of the waiver — and the act that the legislature passed to prevent elective abortions from being covered — that abortions in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother are permitted under “private” option plans (which are paid for by taxpayers). I doubt there is any disagreement over the fact that these abortions are covered in the plans and that they qualify as abortions. But a lot of controversy has arisen around the pregnancy-preventing drugs that are provided by some of the PO plans. In a follow-up story, Ferguson makes the case that Plan B, which is provided by at least some of the PO plans, qualifies as an abortion-inducing drug. Plan B (often referred to as “the morning after pill”) can prevent fertilization, but it can also be used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, therefore preventing pregnancy. According to Ferguson, this creates a moral dilemma for Republican lawmakers who believe life begins at conception/fertilization, but also voted for the “private” option which provides these drugs that, in some cases, terminate fertilized embryos. David Ramsey at the ArkTimes stirred the pot on Thursday by reaching out to Arkansas Right To Life (ARTL) Director Rose Mimms for comment on whether or not her group believes the use of Plan B constitutes abortion. Mimms reportedly told Ramsey that the group does not take a position on contraceptives and does not believe that Plan B is abortion. I spoke with Mimms today. She confirmed that Ramsey’s article is accurate; her group “does not take a position on contraceptives.” She also passed along this joint statement from National Right To Life (the parent organization of ARTL). But because that statement argues that life begins at fertilization and comes out against “the destruction of that new human life,” there seems to be a conflict with Mimms’ comment from last week:

Neither Arkansas Right to Life nor National Right to Life take a position on the prevention of the uniting of sperm and egg. Once fertilization, i.e., the uniting of sperm and egg, has occurred, a new life has begun and both Arkansas Right to Life and National Right to Life are opposed to the destruction of that new human life.

(There’s some tension between Mimms’ denial last week that Plan B is not abortion and her affirmation this week that the unity of a sperm and an egg are a “new life.” This week’s statement says ARTL opposes the “destruction” of these new lives, yet Plan B, in many cases, results in this type of destruction.) I followed up with Mimms, asking her if she believes Plan B is most appropriately described as “contraception.” As of press time, I have not heard back. Opinions on Plan B from conservative groups seem to vary greatly across the country. In fact, other state chapters of Right To Life strongly oppose Plan B. Take, for example, Iowa’s state chapter, which says the drug can “act as an abortifacient by preventing the fertilized egg” from being implanted. Colorado Right To Life also opposes Plan B, saying “If emergency contraception prevents that embryo from implanting, it kills that living, growing human being.” Likewise, Arkansas’s own Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, released this statement to The Arkansas Project, definitively saying that Plan B can be used as an “abortifacient” and stating his group’s long-held opposition to the drug:

Family Council believes that human life begins at the moment of fertilization. We believe that Plan B and similar forms of “emergency contraception” (often dubbed “the morning-after pill”) can function as abortifacients by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This position is confirmed by Dr. James Trussell, a leading expert on emergency contraception and researcher for Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute, who stated in 2013 that emergency contraception can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. Family Council has vocally opposed the federal government’s reckless move to make emergency contraception available in drug stores over the counter without a prescription. Teens in many parts of the country now have easier access to emergency contraception than Sudafed. Making the drug available without input from doctors and other medical professionals puts women at risk. Given the fact emergency contraception can function as an abortifacient, Family Council opposes any attempt to use funds from the Private Option to pay for Plan B or similar drugs.

Ultimately, where you stand morally on the use of Plan B likely depends on when you believe life begins. If you believe life begins at conception, you likely oppose Plan B; if you believe it begins at implantation, you are probably okay with Plan B. However, there is one thing that I think most conservatives — and in fact most Americans — can agree on: taxpayers should not be forced to pay for these drugs.

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