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UnitedHealth Is Backing Wisconsin's Radical GOP Abortion Foes

Andrew Witty, now UnitedHealth Group CEO, speaks with Moira Forbes at a Forbes forum Dec. 16, 2019.

 

(Image: Screengrab of Forbes video.)

UnitedHealth Group has funded numerous state-level Republican officials who either wrote or co-sponsored Wisconsin’s Draconian anti-abortion bills that were recently struck down by Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI).

According to Transparency USA, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks campaign finance for state level races, between 2018 and this year, UnitedHealth Group donated more than $53,000 to state-level groups in the Badger State, $48,000 of which went to those directly involved with this draconian legislation.

The most telling are the direct contributions to individual representatives. All but one was directly involved with this legislation.

The healthcare giant funded a combined $3500 directly to representatives who either directly authored or co-sponsored the bills. UnitedHealth also gave more than $44,000 to PACs that support them. The bills were authored by most of the GOP members of the Wisconsin state legislature.

What are the bills and what would they have done?

While five bills were proposed, two stood out as particularly devoid of science. One bill would require doctors to tell women that they could change their mind after taking the first dose of a medication-induced abortion and continue on with the pregnancy.

Groups with actual expertise on this issue, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, say this proposal isn’t based on science and could potentially be life-threatening to patients.

The other questionable bills had pretty harsh penalties for an incredibly rare scenario. These bills would have made it a felony, punishable by life in prison for the provider, if a woman or her physician intentionally kills a child “born alive” following an abortion attempt.

Physicians say this legislation is a solution in search of a problem because this scenario is remarkably rare.

Nor were the legal issues around this scenario ever in question. If a child is in fact born, doctors have a legal and ethical obligation to treat that child. That was never in question. Infanticide is illlegal in every single state.

Similar bills have been proposed at the federal level, including a 2019 bill authored by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE). Sasse's was quickly dismissed based on similar critiques that it is a solution in search of a problem.

At the time, Planned Parenthood slammed the bill saying, “So-called ‘Born Alive' bills fabricate a problem that doesn’t exist. Doctors already have an obligation to provide appropriate medical care. To suggest otherwise is false, offensive, and dangerous, not to mention a complete waste of taxpayer time and money.”

While the company’s PR team continually touts UnitedHealth's support for women, these political donations suggest the contrary. Nor is Wisconsin a one-off for Unitedhealth Group. The healthcare giant also bankrolled politicians involved with the controversial SB8 anti-aboriton law recently passed in Texas.

The company was one of the largest corporate donors to the sponsors and cosponsors of the bill, making donations totalling $121,000.

UnitedHealth Group has a long history of shady financial practices that goes far beyond funding legislators proposing extremist anti-abortion laws. And just since Andrew Witty took over as CEO in February 2021, its subsidiary, United Healthcare Insurance, has been sued successfully for underpaying ER doctors in Nevada and reached an agreement to settle allegations of unlawfully denying more than 20,000 mental healthcare claims in New York State.

While these are all massive pressing concerns, UnitedHealth's state-level support for foes of reproductive rights is mirrored by movement at the federal level.

UnitedHealth's political donations come against the background of the landmark Supreme Court case which could essentially overturn Roe v. Wade and open up a flurry of anti-abortion laws taking away basic rights from women, families and doctors.

Wisconsin is one of many states that could take a big step backwards if Roe is overturned. Wisconsin, for instance, has a law dating back to 1849 that makes providing an abortion a felony punishable by up to six years behind bars.

UnitedHealth did not respond to TYT's request for comment. But it is also not the only massive company backing radical foes of abortion.

Other recipients of corporate largesse backing Draconian abortion laws include Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, as TYT previously reported. Alabama and Mississippi have similar proposals that have popped up in recent years.

TYT is looking into state-level politicians around the country who proposed these laws and shining a light on the big corporate names backing them.

Andy Hirschfeld is a freelance reporter. You can find him on Twitter @andyreports

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