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Monday, November 09, 2009  

On the Stupak Amendment

In the aftermath of Saturday night's House vote on health reform, progressive anger over the amendment to remove abortion coverage from both the public plan and private plans purchased with subsidies has really boiled over. And while I'm pretty moderate on this issue, I understand: this is an underhanded attack on the legal status quo by Representatives who can't and won't try to actually ban a legal procedure, and it certainly is indicative of a demograhic imbalance in our caucus, which was mostly elected by women--the large majority of whom do not think they need Bart Stupak's supervision to make medical decisions.

That having been said, it seems like a legitimate point to me that the segregation of funds proposed in the bill's original language wasn't truly sufficient to maintaining the principle of the Hyde Amendment (and love it or hate it, this is a principle that has survived year in and year out). And perhaps more to the point, this is exactly the kind of problem that we liberals invite by trying to expand the role of government in this or any area. If you want federal subsidies for purchasing health insurance, you have to be ready to weather some votes on how those subsidies may and may not be used. It does little good to complain that most of the Stupak votes come, as they undoubtedly do, out of a desire to avoid thinking about uncomfortable issues than out of any genuine commitment to human life (as evidenced by the overwhelming opposition by Stupak supporters to actually expanding access to health insurance). Truly, these are heinous people. But they are our elected representatives. If we're not getting their votes, I guess it sucks to be us.

On the other hand, it's clear that we got pretty well hosed by the Catholic bishops. They lobbied all-out for the Stupak Amendment, and once it passed they had nothing much to say about the fate of health reform over all. This is yet more evidence, were more needed, that the bishops invoke Catholic social ethics only when they dovetail with the right-wing agenda that has come to define their profile in American politics. They will never help us with anything, so we might as well ignore them entirely.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 7:40 AM
Hi Ben,

Long time no chat - although your blog is (deservedly) on on short Google reader list.

Overall, Stupak should have been part of any Health Care bill - IMO it is absolutely unconscionable to force the 1/2 the folks in the country who believe abortion is immoral.

And, to me, it is clear that Stupak does no more than Hyde did.

It is also clear to me that this last minute "crisis" was reached because the Democratic leadership tried to "stealth" funding for abortion into the bill while denying it was there. That kept them from actually building support for the concept since they were constantly denying their intent to do so.

I think the best post on this is by a "pro-life liberal" who also sort of messes with your statement about the Catholic Bishops support of health care in general:

a spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “We think that providing health care is itself a pro-life thing, and we think that, by and large, providing better health coverage to women could reduce abortions. But we don’t make these decisions statistically, and to get to that good we cannot do something seriously evil.”
Sure, the bishops will always put out something boilerplate about the desirability of people not dying from lack of insurance, etc. But so far I've seen no indication that they will put their weight behind this reform. My hunch is that they're too scared of the church's right wing.

As for whether Stupak does more than preserve Hyde, I'm not sure--it could end up forcing a lot of employer-based plans to drop abortion coverage. I'm hardly a pro-choice ideologue, and I personally have grave misgivings about abortion in many cases, but I just don't care to have Bart Stupak deciding whether a threat to my wife's health is grave enough to allow it.

Thanks for commenting. It's good to see you again.
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