Now that the Democratic leadership has reined in the defiant Joe Lieberman by agreeing to drop a proposed Medicare buy in plan for folks 55 to 64. I'm only 51, so I'd have to wait for such a program that some characterize as mismanaged and such -- but which the GOP now fights tooth and nail to protect for our seniors. But, that option is now gone thanks to Joe. But in the end, Joe's not the most recalcitrant of opponents. No, the lone hold out now seems to be Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- I'm not sure what to make of the two senators from Maine. What do they need to get on board?
Ben Nelson has been courted day in and day out -- had private audiences with the President. But no matter what they do, the Democrats can't get him to budge on the matter of abortion. Now, it's interesting that abortion has become the sticking point in health insurance reform. The Catholic Bishops, which have put the most pressure on Democratic Senators to ban abortion, also want them to expand coverage for immigrants. They want to see the poor covered, but ultimately abortion has become the issue that determines all else.
What is interesting is that in the end, all of the attempts to restrict abortion in the new reform efforts ultimately remove the opportunities for low income and poor women to have a choice in an abortion -- but it doesn't ban it for wealthier women. In other words, if you have an employer based policy, which is offered tax free to employees, or you can afford a high end private plan, you can have your abortions paid for. But, if you're not, well that's too bad.
Steve Thorngate, Assistant Editor at the Christian Century, puts his finger on the -- let me use the word -- hypocrisy of this whole affair. Writing as the Stupak Amendment was added to the House Bill that passed by a narrow margin, it is interesting that the same issue has become the sticking point in the Senate. And yet, only the low income and the poor would be affected.
The Stupak Amendment would make this inequality worse. The insurance exchanges proposed in the House bill would be designed largely for low- and middle-income Americans. To cover abortion, an exchange plan would have to be sold exclusively to women who make too much money to be eligible for subsidies. This is a pretty small group, so insurers would have little incentive to include abortion coverage in any ex change plans—unless they did so specifically as a way to block low-income people, who are less profitable to insure, from buying them.
And for all its not-with-our-money sheen, Stupak wouldn't actually eliminate federal support of abortion coverage. Rep. Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.) pointed out to Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein that the amendment would do nothing to prevent abortion coverage through employer-based health insurance, which the federal government subsidizes indirectly but massively via tax exemption. Of course, people with job-based group coverage are generally wealthier than those who would be eligible for subsidies. Instead of being "complicit in every single abortion"—anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser's characterization of the House bill pre-Stupak—taxpayers could rest assured that they're complicit only in those abortions obtained by women fortunate enough to have jobs with good benefits.
Steve concludes with this comment that I think sums up this thing well:
Some people want to promote abortion access in the name of freedom; others want to restrict it in the name of morality. As is too often the case, the political sausage-making process is offering the least coherent sort of middle ground: restricting access to abortion specifically for poor people.
Old Ben and Bart, they'll hold out for something that makes sure that not a dime goes for an abortion, even if that means sacrificing health coverage for millions of Americans -- all in the name of being Pro-Life. Unless, of course, you're wealthy, you don't have to suffer in that way.