Nov 09 2009

Abortion and Healthcare Reform

By John Culhane Nov 7, 2009 (and also available on his blog:

As I write this, the House of Representatives has just approved, 220-215, the vast health care reform bill that has bubbled on the hot stove for much of the year. But before doing so, the Democratic leadership caved to the pro-life members of their caucus, and allowed a vote on an amendment that will make obtaining abortions much more difficult for poor women. It passed easily.

Under the terms of this amendment, those obtaining insurance through any kind of government support — public option, insurance exchange, or even a subsidized private plan — won’t be able to get funded abortions except under limited circumstances (a threat to the mother’s life, rape, or incest). This is no surprise, really, since the pro-life forces have long since won legislation that bans federal funding for abortions. What’s new is that even private plans will be subject to the ban, even though the Democratic leadership is trying to spin this in a positive direction by noting that people will be able to buy “insurance riders” that would allow payments for abortion.

What planet are they living on? How likely is it that poor, or lower middle class women, who obtain subsidized coverage will know to bargain for such “riders”? Exposing the fiction that health insurance works like any other “market” has been at the center of the country’s education. Now the Democrats are saying: The insurance market works so transparently that companies and women will bargain about riders to fund abortions. Moreover, what would they cost? And who could afford them?

I know of a sixteen-year-old girl nearby (here in Philly) who is pregnant with her second child; her first was born when she was fourteen. The family is raising the first child while she has continued in school. Now what? Will she give up and drop out? In any case, does anyone care to predict what kind of life these children will have?

But let’s continue to argue for abstinence-only education and to deny funding for abortion. And above all, let’s not do anything to help these girls once their kids arrive. With the exception of gun policy, it’s hard to think of another area in which reality and the law are so clearly mismatched.

Postings on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Widener University or Widener University School of Law.

One response so far

One Response to “Abortion and Healthcare Reform”

  1. Yomi Faparusi Sr.on 11 Nov 2009 at 5:44 pm

    The abortion debate is like the political spectrum in the United States-the middle or Independents (who exactly are these people is a subject of another debate) decide. On the conservative fringe, there are those who believe that there should be a ban of abortions-period! No exceptions! On the other end of the field are those who are in support of absolutely no restrictions on abortions- a la it’s a personal choice.

    So let’s talk about the middle…The Stupak amendment was smartly crafted by including the “socially juicy” exceptions of “health of the mother, incest and rape”, exceptions very favorable to many who are against abortion but do not support a blanket ban. The political reality is that, at least for time to come, those against abortion in one form or the other will continue to win because there are more democrats from red districts who cannot afford to be seen as endorsing abortion.

    Even just analyzing the label warfare: if you are not pro-life, are you anti-life or con-life? In contrast, it is easier to spin the “choice” debate- what choice? To have an abortion or to take preventive measures such as, in blunt terms, make the dude wear a condom. To think abstinence is the, or in fact a solution is like getting stuck in the stone age times. However, the graphic advantage of an anti-abortion argument will ensure that the debate leans right on the ideological scale: uhm ending a life (described as cocktail abortion) versus denying a woman a right to make decisions on her body.

    Maybe, it is time the Supreme Court decides once and for all at what point life begins but this debate in the HC bill only heralds the divide in the majority party.

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