Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Odd Politics of Abortion and Health Care Reform

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. 

Steve writes:

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. 


pastormack said...

If being wealthy means having enough excess cash flow to terminate a pregnancy (or the insurance to do so), than what Jesus said is true afterall:

"Blessed are the poor."

And as for, "...all in the name of being pro-life." Yeah, I guess so. Not wanting tax money - my tax money - to fund abortions is an important matter of conscience. We have a right to be heard on this. Of course the "wealthy" will be exempt, they always are. Unfortunately, not all the wealthy are in Christian communities that can hold them accountable, and love them enough and teach them correctly, so that they won't force their kids to get abortions out of shame. The fewer the abortions, the better. The less taxpayer support, the better. You say hypocrisy? I say, lets stop playing God with the unborn.

Anonymous said...

Too bad we blow so much of our money playing God with our weapons. We could be there to educate and support the heath of these unfortunate children and their mothers otherwise. As far as abortion out of the shame of the grandparents. Isn't that amazing?
Power really does corrupt. David Mc

Anonymous said...

Actually, with the over-medication of us all by the government and the schools with "preventative" and psychoactive drugs, perhaps we should urge kids to parent as soon as possible before their genome is completely scrambled. It's only getting worse. Our descendants will probably all resemble Darth Vader in 200 years at this rate. Too many needless monkey wrenches. The poor just may inherit the earth. Save medical care for actual sick people. I have news for you, we're all going to die. David Mc

roy said...

I'm really troubled by all of this...
since when does my moral commeitment allow me to dictate tax policies? I am a pacifist. I believe that is the only option for a Christian who is truly following Jesus. My tax money- for years into the future - pays for bombs dropped on innocent people in direct opposition to the core of my faith as a follower of Jesus, yet, I have no option here. My money buys bombs. Regardless of how I feel about it on religious principals, goes to do things I am committed as a Christian are absolutely against everything I believe. It is more than a matter of conscience. It is a matter of following Jesus for me (as it was for the early church and is for the entire Peace Church tradition). If I refuse to pay my taxes on those grounds, I go to jail.
Why in the world is this different when it comes to abortion? It is legal. Wealthy women can get them, basically for any reason they want. Why should I be required to kill innocent children around the world with my dollars while some conservative can refuse to allow women to exercise their right to choose under US law?
If we want to make taxes optional as to whether they are being used to fund programs with which we are in moral agreement, we might as well scrap the entire system.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused. First of all I believe abortion is a moral issue, the government made it legal years ago...secondly, I don't get why abortion being covered for the poor is suddenly a big issue, Medicaid stopped paying for abortions may years ago. They haven't been paying for them in at least the last 20 years (if not longer) so I don't know what they are trying to do? Get the government to reverse that and start paying for them? I don't want my tax dollars funding abortion, nor do I want it funding wars and bombs and the killing of all the innocents. I'm just confused as to what they are trying to do. If they are trying to reverse the legality of abortion you won't do it by not having tax dollars involved (since they haven't been for the last few decades anyway) this is starting to remind me of a dog running in circles chasing it's tail.
Mrs. DavidMc

Anonymous said...

You're not towing the party line Mrs.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Mrs. David --

What is holding up this legislation is the demand that every possible dollar that could be used to pay for an abortion, no matter how indirectly, must be prevented.

Thus, if there had been a public option -- no abortion.

Any policy sold in the open market that might receive subsidies -- no abortion. That's the kicker. Since the proposed plans will likely subsidize insurance for lower income -- those who don't qualify for medicaid, won't have access to abortions.

In addition, they want to prevent abortion coverage from being in plans offered in the exchanges -- that would receive federal money.

What is ironic is that employer provided policies, which are indirectly subsidized, aren't covered here.

What I say to Ben Nelson is this -- if you want to vote no on health care, then vote no, but let a vote. Yes, health care reform will pass, and more people will get covered, which apparently is a bad thing to you.

The problem here is the fillibuster, an increasingly outmoded tool of obstruction.

At This Time said...

My liberal friend pointed out to me that in all the years since roe vs Wade, there have been many conservative thinking Presidents. And many conservative, Republican led congress. Therefore, more than a few conservative judges. And in all those years, Roe vs Wade has not been overturned. He verbally wonders to himself, why. I think one reason is the very fact that one can, actually, not legislate morality. And, even though two may be fully functioning, Bible believing, go to meeting Christians, even their moralities do not jive. Therefore, it is more important to make decisions for yourself, ie, what to think and act on the abortion issue, then it is to get mad at me when i think and act on it differently. Better to align more with the sameness than to fight over the differences.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with health care reform, actually I'm all for it. I was just confused as to the abortion issue since I knew medicaid didn't cover them. Now I understand. Thanks for clearing it up.