Health care and abortion

I'm just so frustrated by the supposedly pro-life Democrats holding health care hostage in the House right now.  If it wasn't for Stupak and his blind followers, we'd already have legislation passed.  What's particularly frustrating, is that Stupak doesn't even know what he's talking about, as Tim Noah nicely demonstrates.   Stupak doesn't want the federal government paying for abortions.  I'm fine with that.  And so is the Senate Bill.  It sets up a seemingly ridiculous system where people make two separate premium payments to their insurer so that one of the payments, presumably not subsidized by government money pays for the part of the premium that covers abortion.  Sure, it's all accounting games, but look, once you have anything other than the government directly paying the cost of the abortion everything is potentially accounting games.  According to Stupak's logic, nobody who receives any money from the federal government should be able to have an abortion because that transfer of money allowed them to afford it.  You might as well say that anybody on welfare, rental assistance, unemployment, whatever, cannot haven an abortion because the fact that they have government money helped them pay for it.  Sure, this is less direct than the government helping to subsidize your health insurance premium, but again, once you get past directly paying for the abortion there's nothing close to a clear, bright line. 

It's also important to note that right now the federal government already subsidizes health insurance with abortions through tax law. Employer provided health insurance is a tax-free (i.e., subsidized) form of compensation and 87% of employer health plans provide abortion coverage (the insurers love it– an abortion costs a lot less than pregnancy and delivery).  Of course, if Stupak and friends actually wanted intellectual consistency, they'd demand that the tax exemption be removed from such health plans, but, of course, they are not about to do that.  

On a practical and moral level, what is so frustrating is that surely passing health care legislation will do so much more to save lives than killing this legislation would to prevent abortions.  Health care insurance saves lives!!  I really feel like that point cannot be emphasized enough.  Getting more people to have insurance means not only fewer unnecessary deaths, but quite simply will lead to dramatically less physical and emotional suffering (i.e., buy food or use the money to take your kid to the doctor) among many Americans.   Even if there were 1000 more abortions if this bill passed (I don't think too many people make abortion decisions based upon whether their health care plan covers it), which I honestly find highly unlikely, evidence suggests that perhaps 10's of thousands of lives would be saved and 100's of thousands probably materially improved.  That's nothing to sneeze out.  There's not some third alternative, this is an either/or choice.  What should have more value to our society– 1000 human beings yet to be born or 10's of thousands of people with mothers, fathers, children, friends, etc., who will die prematurely without access to health insurance.  That should be a no brainer if you really care about human life. 

Here's Harvard Sociologist Theda Skocpol making the same case (much more eloquently than me):

CATHOLIC PRO-LIFE DEMOCRATS also need to get a grip on core values. Do
they — or the U.S. Catholic Bishops — really want to be responsible for
scuttling access to health care for millions? Many deaths will be on
their hands if they do. Scuttling reform over abortion will give the
lie to “pro life” claims
. Abortion funding is not directly
available through public funds — it has not been for a long time, and
it won’t be under this legislation. Congressman Stupak, one suspects,
really wants to defeat comprehensive health reform; he was conspiring
with Republican leaders in the last episode. Other Democrats should not
follow Stupak. And responsible Catholic leaders should support the true
“pro-life” cause here: expanded, affordable health care coverage for
all Americans.


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