In a floor speech to a nearly empty House chamber Wednesday night, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., raised the specter of schoolhouse abortions if the House Democrats' health reform overhaul becomes law.
Citing privacy provisions in a grant program for school-based health clinics, Bachmann suggested that they would allow young girls to get abortion referrals from what she referred to as "sex clinics."
Though hardly anyone was present, word filtered out quickly to the blogosphere and the cable TV talk world, where liberal pundit Keith Olbermann on MSNBC dubbed it "the latest big lie from the GOP."
The debate raged into Friday, with a YouTube clip bouncing around the Internet showing Bachmann describing the bill like this: "Comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor, acute, chronic medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care -- is that abortion?"
Stopping to take off her glasses and look straight into the camera, Bachmann continued, "Does that mean that somebody's 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic and have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser."
Democrats, still howling about the speech, note that school-based health clinics have been around for decades, and that there are no provisions in the bill for abortions. The section that Bachmann complained about also has an explicit provision for "parental or guardian consent" -- in accordance with existing federal, state and local laws.
But Bachmann aides say that's just the point. About a dozen states lack parental notification laws for abortion (Minnesota is not among them).
California Democrat Lois Capps, one of the authors of the health clinic provision, assured supporters on Friday that the bill was specifically amended to bar public school-based health funds from being used for abortions.
Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753