Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Call the orderlies, this one's dead

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

If what the Senate Finance Committee did today survives coming floor votes, slap a toe tag on health-care reform, because it has just assumed room temperature.

And that would be just as well, I suppose. How good a health-care system can one expect out of politicians so committed to the "culture of death" they can't even tell Americans -- unambiguously -- that if they want to abort their offspring, they have to do it on their own damned dime?

Pols so committed to abortion for all that they can't even include provisions for "rights of conscience" for health-care providers and institutions receiving federal subsidies?

In fact, so committed are most congressional Democrats -- and some "country-club Republicans" -- to "helping" low-income women eliminate as many low-income babies as possible, they're willing to risk exposing themselves as ultimately uninterested in actually passing health-care reform, as opposed to posturing about health-care reform.

HERE ARE some details from a story by The Associated Press:

In a vote with far-reaching political implications, senators writing a health care overhaul Wednesday rejected a bid to strengthen anti-abortion provisions in the legislation — which could reach the Senate floor in the next two weeks.

The 13-10 vote by the Senate Finance Committee could threaten support for the health care bill from some Catholics who otherwise back its broad goal of expanding coverage. But women's groups are likely to see the committee's action as a reasonable compromise on a divisive issue that is always fraught with difficulties.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, argued that provisions already in the bill to restrict federal funding for abortions needed to be tightened to guarantee they would be ironclad.

But his amendment failed to carry the day. One Republican — Olympia Snowe of Maine — voted with the majority. One Democrat — Kent Conrad of North Dakota — supported Hatch.


A major concern for abortion opponents — including Catholic bishops — is that those underlying restrictions have to be renewed every year.

If Congress fails to renew the ban one year, plans funded through the health care overhaul would be allowed to cover the procedure, abortion opponents contend.

Abortion rights supporters respond that adding a permanent restriction on abortion funding to the health bill would actually go beyond current federal law — in which such curbs have to be renewed every year.

"This is a health care bill," said Baucus. "This is not an abortion bill. And we are not changing current law."

BAUCUS IS being disingenuous.

If it's not an abortion bill, why are some Democrats willing to compromise on anything but? How are they any different than those who'd explode any possibility of health-care reform -- further enshrining a dysfunctional system
responsible for the deaths of some 45,000 uninsured Americans a year -- because they won't accept anything resembling a "public option"?

It's not like no one has floated any reasonable compromises these last few months.

A notable one came from Beliefnet co-founder Steven Waldman:
First, we need to recognize that part of the problem in being neutral is that health care reform would introduce some new features so you really can't just freeze the status quo. Instead, one has to look at general principles. In general, the federal government is currently prohibited from directly paying for abortion but allowed to indirectly support abortion.

Indirect support happens in a variety of ways. For instance, the federal government set up the Medicaid program, pays for much of it, and then allows states to pay for abortions. The government provides support to hospitals, which perform abortions. The government gives money to family planning clinics for maternal health care, even though those clinics might also do abortions. In each case, the primary purpose of the spending is not encouraging abortion but by supporting institutions that also, with their own money, do abortions. That's the status quo.

First, let's apply this principle to the "public option" -- a new, government-backed insurance plan that may or may not be included in a final health reform bill. Congress could decree that the basic public insurance option doesn't include abortion but then offer consumers the ability to buy, with their own money, a rider to the policy that would cover abortions. Then the full direct cost of abortion coverage would be unambiguously carried by the consumer who chooses it.

Would there be an indirect subsidy? Yes, in the sense that the whole structure wouldn't exist without government support, but since the purpose of the structure is providing health care in general, not promoting abortion, it seems like a valid indirect subsidy consistent with the operating principles of the status quo stalemate.

Some pro-choice folks might say, well, no one plans an unintended pregnancy so it's not realistic for people to make that choice when buying health insurance.

But I don't plan on having auto accidents and yet I buy car insurance; I don't intend for my house to burn down, yet I buy homeowners insurance.

And perhaps there's a way of having this special abortion rider also include extra benefits to pay for contraception. That would give a second reason to buy the plan, and might even prevent more unintended pregnancies and abortions.

WHY CAN'T "reproductive-health insurance" be something offered "offline" at reasonable cost by private insurers? Why must federal funding be inextricably enmeshed (And if it's not, what was the problem with Hatch's amendment?) with an issue so morally grave, culturally contentious and politically radioactive?

Personally, I'd favor a simple, single-payer system of national health insurance. After all, if it's good enough for my mother and every American over 65. . . . That is to say this issue isn't political for me or for a lot of others, particularly many Catholics -- and especially for the country's Catholic leadership.

It's moral. And the religious worldview which compels me to see the immorality of a system where Americans can go without health care -- or be financially ruined by accessing health care -- is the same worldview telling me it's fundamentally immoral to finance the killing of helpless innocents in the process of "doing good."

There is no justice here, and there can be no compromising with people so dead set on blurring the lines on federal funding of abortion.

In fact, the Democratic leadership's stance against an explicit ban on federal abortion funding not only will doom health-care reform in the eyes of people like me and the Catholic bishops, it will cost it the support of at least 40 House Democrats.

Nobody is trying to undo Roe v. Wade in this. That's a fight for another day. This is a fight about being compelled to bankroll somebody's "right" that half of Americans -- at least -- see as dead wrong.

This is about violation of conscience. And this is about the Democratic House and Senate leadership seeking to ram abortion down the throats of taxpayers, and even down the throats of Catholic health-care workers and Catholic hospitals.

And see where that ultimately leaves health care if Catholic bishops, pushed beyond the bounds of complacency, start to grow spines and begin to shut down hospitals that care for
1 in 6 American patients.

No comments: