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Monday, March 22, 2010  

Giving the Game Away

Since I mocked Archbishop Charles Chaput below, I may as well take a few moments to address his actual argument against the Senate bill passed by the House yesterday. "The current Senate version of reform fails in at least three vital areas: abortion and its public funding; conscience protections for medical professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants."

Regarding the first two areas, it is hard to imagine what further assurances the bishops would accept. The abortion provisions were good enough for Bart Stupak and the conscience provisions good enough for the Catholic Health Association. But it's the third point that really gives the game away. I agree, of course, that immigrants should be included in the exchanges and subsidies provided by the bill. But under current law immigrants get nothing. Trying to scuttle a plan to insure 30 million people because it leaves immigrants out is so absurd as to tempt one to accusations of bad faith. It would be as if I needed $1,000 very badly and was offered a job paying $850. If I turned it down on the grounds that it wouldn't provide all the money I needed, you would wonder why I had started to use reasoning appropriate to a young child. You start with covering most people and then you work to extend it to the rest. That's how politics has always worked.

Moreover, the same reasoning holds true for the abortion issue. Imagine two scenarios in which a woman is pregnant. In one, she is insured with a plan that covers abortion. In the other, she is uninsured and does not qualify for Medicaid. Since having a baby without insurance will cost her about $25,000, in which scenario do you think she is more likely to have an abortion?

Back in the real world, of course, the Senate bill forbids subsidies for abortion coverage and current tax law massively subsidizes health plans that cover abortion. But even if we grant Chaput's absurd premise that the plan pays for abortions, it should be pretty easy to see how extending insurance is in itself a pro-life measure. The chronic abortion-promoting elements of the status quo are of no apparent interest to the Archbishop. It feeds the impression, true or false, that he and his brother bishops are less concerned with actual human lives, in utero or out, than with expressing their moral disapproval of abortion through acts of law.

Taken altogether, Chaput's argument is insulting to our intelligence. It expresses the terrible strain the church leaders experience in both appeasing their increasingly right-wing constituency while paying lip service to the idea that they care about human welfare. It would have been far preferable, for him and for his flock, if he had just said nothing.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 1:20 PM
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