Decisions Congress shouldn’t make

English: View of Capitol Hill from the U.S. Su...
English: View of Capitol Hill from the U.S. Supreme Court Česky: Pohled na Kapitol z budovy Nejvyššího soudu Spojených států (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent New York Times op ed piece by Judy Nicastro tells the wrenching story of an abortion she had at 23 weeks.

The decision — which involved aborting a fetus that would have faced only suffering if it survived — was made after agonizing weeks. It was informed by sonograms, an M.R.I., tests, studies and extensive discussions between Nicastro, her husband and many medical professionals.

The decision to tell her story was prompted by the House vote on June 18 to ban abortion after 22 weeks. No one among those who voted for the bill (which is not expected to pass the Senate) has experienced anything like the agonizing struggle Nicastro and her husband went through, or even just a troubled pregnancy — most of the votes were cast by men, after all.

The decision was anguished, soul-searching, unique — and above all, private.

Which raises the question:

Should a decision about an unintended or unadvised pregnancy be made by the woman involved, with advice from medical professionals, after discussion with her partner, in consideration of the unique circumstances that apply?

Or by the U.S. Congress?

After Tax Day: A Tax Savings Tool

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, via her intermittent e-mail list, sends this little Tax Day gift message:

Congress and the President have worked together to enact an array of broad-based tax cuts for working and middle-class families and small business owners — ending an era of Republican tax breaks focused only on the wealthy. All totaled, the 111th Congress has enacted more than $800 billion in tax cuts, in the Recovery Act, health insurance reform, and other job-creating tax incentives for American business.

The Recovery Act, which has saved or created more than 2.5 million jobs through March 2010, includes 25 tax cuts you may be eligible for.

Followed by a fairly stern reminder that you’re on your own for filing the right forms and obeying the law, the Recovery Act folks offer a tool to start you on your way:

The Recovery Act Tax Savings Tool is intended to help taxpayers determine their potential eligibility for various tax benefits available under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Go for it. A little recovery never hurt anybody.

Recovery Act Tax Savings Tool | The White House.

Health reform: a start

Victory finally came, but only for those who were hanging onto the shreds of earlier wishes, and it wasn’t ever pretty. Watching C-SPAN on Sunday, in fact, was a little like watching grass grow, with every other blade sniping at the blade just around the corner. But at least that much is over.

Congress gave final approval on Sunday to legislation that would provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation’s health care system along the lines proposed by President Obama.

By a vote of 219 to 212, the House passed the bill after a day of tumultuous debate that echoed the epic struggle of the last year. The action sent the bill to President Obama, whose crusade for such legislation has been a hallmark of his presidency.

“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform,” Mr. Obama said after the vote. “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”

Minutes after thebill was approved, the House passed a package of changes to it and sent it to the Senate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has promised House Democrats that the Senate would quickly take up the reconciliation bill with the changes in it, and that he had secured the votes to pass it.

But while the Senate is bracing for a fierce floor fight over the reconciliation measure, the landscape was permanently altered by passage of the original Senate bill. Should the reconciliation bill, which cannot be filibustered, collapse for any reason, the core components of the Democrats’ health care overhaul would move forward. Indeed, Senate Republicans were quickly faced with a need to recalibrate their message from one aimed at stopping the legislation to one focused on winning back a sufficient number of seats in Congress to repeal it.

It was mean and divisive and ugly, and will surely get more so, but at least it’s a start. We can finally begin to reform what is a cruel and unworkable system. And maybe, just maybe, there will some day be access to health care for all. Does anyone remember when there was no Social Security or Medicare?

House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama – NYTimes.com.

Catholic nuns urge passage of health bill

There’s hope. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be trying to sink health reform because they feel they know best about women, but a few thousand good sisters are raising their own voices. And not just your everyday sisters.

Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.

Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don’t go far enough.

The letter says that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and “this is the real pro-life stance.”

This space, a space which claims several priests as good friends despite our frequent and vehement disagreements, hereby sides with the sisters. And offers a sincerely respectful three cheers.

Catholic nuns urge passage of Obama’s health bill – Politics – Wire – TheState.com.

Abortion, health reform and me: who is making our choices?

Am I the only person around who is squirming — make that fuming a little — over the concessions made to the anti-choice guys before the House passed its health reform bill? Does no one else find it offensive to turn from reading on page one of today’s New York Times about this sad state of events to page 14 for a large photo of President Obama shaking hands with Cardinal Sean O’Malley? They were meeting at the funeral for Senator Ted Kennedy in August, where reportedly the good clergyman told the president that the Congress of Catholic Bishops really wanted to support health reform ——– oh, but only if everybody caved to their wishes that abortion remain unavailable.

It is not as if we weren’t forewarned. I posted a brief note in this space a few days ago (see Abortion Foes Winning Health Concessions, 11/4, below) and tried to resume a position of calm.

It is hard to remain calm. Somewhere the lines about separation of church and state have to fuzz themselves back into reality. I believe in the right of the U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops to tell Catholics how to behave (despite the fact that of my many Catholic friends I know almost none who pay any attention in matters of personal choice.) I even believe in the right of the Pope to tell the Bishops to tell their parishioners how to behave. I even believe in the responsibility of all individuals, including my Presbyterian self, to behave according to their conscience and their faith. I just hate being governed by someone else’s faith.

This is not a small distinction. My own church, admittedly starting with a small group here in woo-woo San Francisco, passed a fairly strong national resolution denouncing our country’s torturing folks and seeking justice. As far as I know, no one threatened the president about withholding support for these occasionally immoral wars we keep fighting unless the instigators of torture-in-our-name were sent to jail. However strongly I would like to see the latter happen, I believe there are limits to what faith communities should do.

I had personal experience with back-alley abortion, in the dark days pre-Roe v Wade. It was not pleasant. Is there any way a celibate Catholic bishop could even remotely understand the horrors to which he is condemning poor, desperate pregnant women with the relentless push to make abortion totally unavailable? No. I wish there were.

We still have got to have health reform. But what prices we are paying.

Abortion foes winning health concessions

Anti-abortion forces, sensing victory in the health bill, are happily using their clout. They will undoubtedly win big. David M. Herszenhorn and David D. Kirkpatrick report in the New York Times that staunch anti-abortion Representative Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) is likely to get what he wants, which means other leading opponents of a woman’s right to choose, including a few elected representatives and the U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops, will also get what they want.

Struggling to finish their big health care legislation, House Democratic leaders signaled Tuesday that they were prepared to make several changes to the bill to satisfy abortion opponents, including many Democrats, who had threatened to block it.

The opponents are insisting that tax dollars not pay for health insurance that would cover abortion. That is a tricky proposition given that the health care bill would provide hundreds of billions in federal subsidies to help moderate-income Americans buy health insurance, mostly from private carriers.

But Democratic leaders have little choice but to make some concessions. As many as 40 Democrats have said they might oppose the health care bill without tighter restrictions on abortion – a potentially decisive number.

So okay. We desperately need health reform, and such concessions apparently have to be made.

I just wonder if any of these guys know anything about what it was like in the days before Roe v Wade, which is the scenario to which they wish to see us return.

And I find it interesting that they, who seek to exercise so much control over what a woman may do with her body, are mostly men.

Democrats Near Deal on Abortion Coverage – Prescriptions Blog – NYTimes.com.