Will Anti-Abortionists Sink Health Reform?

Already the right wing, Catholic officialdom and Sarah Palin have won their battle to make sure that I, and countless other millions, will likely die only after expensive, prolonged, futile, aggressive, undesirable treatment rather than peacefully at home as I choose. Now they want the generations younger to be sure that any accidental, criminal or otherwise unplanned pregnancy results in another unwanted child coming into this overpopulated world. An assault on health reform is their latest battleground. I am careful to say Catholic officialdom, because all of the lay Catholics I know, many of them Good Catholics, support both reproductive and end-of-life choice. I am careful to mention Sarah Palin just to prove I have absolutely no resentment over the fact that whereas I can’t interest publishers in my several excellent book projects, she has a planned first run of 1.5 million on her dashed-off memoir.

But back to the problem at hand. Writing in Tuesday’s New York Times, David Kirkpatrick presents the new scary problem:

As if it were not complicated enough, the debate over health care in Congress is becoming a battlefield in the fight over abortion.

Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion. And the abortion opponents are getting enough support from moderate Democrats that both sides say the outcome is too close to call. Opponents of abortion cite as precedent a 30-year-old ban on the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions.

Abortion-rights supporters say such a restriction would all but eliminate from the marketplace private plans that cover the procedure, pushing women who have such coverage to give it up. Nearly half of those with employer-sponsored health plans now have policies that cover abortion, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Never mind that Obama has promised that no federal funds will go for elective abortions, and the current policies would remain unchanged, here is a handy opportunity to make points with conservatives and throw a monkey wrench into the works of reform.

Lawmakers pushing the abortion restrictions say they feel the momentum is on their side, especially because the restlessness of other Democratic moderates is making every vote count.At least 31 House Democrats have signed various recent letters to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, urging her to allow a vote on a measure to restrict use of the subsidies to pay for abortion, including 25 who joined more than 100 Republicans on a letter delivered Monday.

Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, a leading Democratic abortion opponent, said he had commitments from 40 Democrats to block the health care bill unless they have a chance to include the restrictions.

So it’s all about halting abortion — maybe — or all about halting reform — maybe — but some of us who simply, desperately, wish better care and a few decent options for our less-advantaged citizens are left to wonder what it’s really all about.

Abortion Fight Complicates Debate on Health Care – Readers’ Comments – NYTimes.com.


  1. Fran,

    I agree that true health care reform is vital. However, your post misrepresented Catholic officialdom’s position on the issue.

    The U.S. Catholic bishops don’t oppose health-care reform in general. They support it. In fact, they’re big supporters.

    Just look at the second video in the link you provided. It quotes Bishop William Murphy, chairman of Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Bishops stressing “the urgent need for health care reform that is available to everyone and protects the life and dignity of every person.” His comment is not exactly reminiscent of anyone from the GOP leadership.

    However, church leaders argue that no reform bill should provide direct or indirect federal funding of abortion. That position does indeed protect the least advantaged citizens among us — unborn boys and girls.

    1. I guess it’s a matter of which side of the issue one is on, Mark. And whether you really see a fetus as an unborn boy or girl. I am a committed Christian equally committed to the individual’s right to choose — i.e., what to do with my body should I become pregnant (not very likely any more, at 76, but I know a lot about the horrors that existed when abortion was illegal, to which state the Catholic Church would have us return) and when I am critically ill or dying. I disagree with the very good ordained Catholic friends with whom I work closely on interfaith affairs. We do not argue these issues. But I was greatly saddened when the Church (plus Mormon influence) defeated what I saw as a CA gay person’s right to dignity and happiness, and opposed related policies that would ease the pain of AIDS abroad. Likewise, unless liberal and moderate legislators cave in on individual choice issues, the stand of the Church could well doom real reform. If those legislators cave, they will be denying the will of what I believe is a substantial majority pro-choice population.

  2. My Generation Y 2 cents:

    We live in a male-run theocracy, not a democracy. These anti-abortionists (and opponents of the public option for health care) don’t know what it means to be poor, unfortunate, and without a family support network. Not very Christian, if you ask me, from their lack of understanding to their belief that free will and choice don’t apply to women.

    I’m actually surprised the “conservative” white right isn’t “pro-abortion”, considering how scared they are of their dwindling majority.

    1. I’m with you, Fruzsina; there are many varieties of Christians, though, as you’ll see from my exchange with Mark. If male anti-abortionists could be pregnant and desperate, with abortion illegal or unavailable for just one day they might change their minds, regardless of what the Church says.

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