Sunday, November 08, 2009

The House's prescription

For once, you have to give the U.S. House of Representatives credit. It pulled off the previously unthinkable.

And a good kind of unthinkable, at that.

After decades and decades, it finally passed something that's as close to universal health coverage as is likely to survive an American legislative chamber. Now if only the Senate would get on board. . . .

THE HEROES of the fight for health-care reform -- at least thus far -- are Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and his band of pro-life Democrats. They won a ban on federal subsidies for abortion in the House bill and, in the process, assured its final passage.

MSNBC has the story:
"It provides coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It offers everyone, regardless of health or income, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will have access to affordable health care when they need it," said Rep. John Dingell, the 83-year-old Michigan lawmaker who has introduced national health insurance in every Congress since succeeding his father in 1955.

In the runup to a final vote, conservatives from the two political parties joined forces to impose tough new restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance policies to be sold to many individuals and small groups. They prevailed on a roll call of 240-194.

The vote added to the Democratic bill an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and others, that prohibits individuals who receive insurance subsidies from purchasing any plan that pays for elective abortions.

House Democratic leaders agreed Friday night to allow a floor vote on the Stupak amendment to the bill in order to win the support of about three dozen Democrats who feared that the original bill would have subsidized abortions.

Ironically, the abortion vote only solidified support for the legislation, clearing the way for the conservative Democrats to vote for it.

A cheer went up from the Democratic side of the House when the bill gained 218 votes, a majority. Moments later, Democrats counted down the final seconds of the voting period in unison, and and let loose an even louder roar when Pelosi grabbed the gavel and declared, "the bill is passed.'

From the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a statement saying, "We realize the strong will for reform that exists, and we are energized that we stand closer than ever to reforming our broken health insurance system."


The compromise brokered Friday night on the volatile issue of abortion finally secured the votes needed to pass the legislation.

As drafted, the measure denied the use of federal subsidies to purchase abortion coverage in policies sold by private insurers in the new insurance exchange, except in cases of incest, rape or when the life of the mother was in danger.

But abortion foes won far stronger restrictions that would rule out abortion coverage except in those three categories in any government-sold plan. It would also ban abortion coverage in any private plan purchased by consumers receiving federal subsidies.

Disappointed Democratic abortion rights supporters grumbled about the turn of events, but appeared to pull back quickly from any thought of opposing the health care bill in protest.
GOING TO THE WALL for abortion coverage, to state the painfully obvious, would not have been pragmatic. If you want to build a workable coalition around an already-controversial bill, you don't go around actively chasing off allies.

Like the Catholic Church, for one. Or pro-life Democrats, like Stupak and his confederates, for about 40 others.

It can't be emphasized too much that only by doing the "right thing" did Democrats save health-care reform from sudden legislative death.

It also can't be emphasized too much that the House has neutralized the biggest weapon in the anti-reformist arsenal. If one opposed health-care legislation on pro-life grounds, that's non-negotiable. That's something over which you "go to the wall."

Now, not so much.

Now, if pro-lifers are going to oppose health-care reform, they're going to have to explain how opposing coverage for millions and millions of the uninsured might be considered a "pro-life" move. They're going to have to explain how the perpetuation, by default, of a fundamentally unjust system responsible for the needless deaths of an estimated 44,789 Americans a year isn't a profound betrayal of the pro-life cause.

And you know what? They can't.

NO, IF "PRO-LIFERS" want to persist in railing about "socialized medicine" instead of getting behind an imperfect but as-good-as-we'll-get House-passed bill, they're going to have to admit that the pro-life movement -- or at least the K Street manifestation thereof -- really is nothing more than an anti-abortion movement.

I can think of no greater travesty . . . no greater affront to a God who, it has been rumored over 6,000 or so years of Judeo-Christian history, continues to care deeply about human beings once they emerge from the womb.

In today's deeply toxic and deeply stupid political culture, I am sure what I've just written will get me branded a "radical socialist" by more than a few. Well, if this be socialism, I will wear the "socialist" label with pride.

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