thoughts on NOW and the Stupak Amendment

Disclaimer: I haven’t been following the health care stuff too closely, because it is exhausting, but this particular aspect interests me.

The National Organization for Women is very upset because the Stupak Amendment passed and is part of the health care bill that passed the house the other day. According to the NYT, the Amendment “would impose tight restrictions on abortions that could be offered through a new government-run insurance plan and through private insurance that is bought using government subsidies.” According to the LA Times,

The compromise amendment, offered Saturday by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), in effect bans abortion coverage by all plans that are purchased using taxpayer dollars. Abortions could still be obtained by policyholders who pay their entire premiums without government assistance or by individuals receiving federal subsidies in the event of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.

Since the Amendment was included in the bill that was passed last night, NOW sees this as a “bill that strips millions of women of their existing access to abortion.” More from NOW:

NOW calls on the Senate to pass a health care bill that respects women’s constitutionally protected right to abortion and calls on President Obama to refuse to sign any health care bill that restricts women’s access to affordable, quality reproductive health care.

NOW is so into universal health care, but then they act all surprised and indignant when the political processes which govern the birth of any such scheme return a result which — surprise! — reflects the preferences of the sizable pro-life constituency in this country. Just imagine: If you (or your constituents) thought that abortion was murder and therefore the very antithesis of health care, you would vote to minimize directly or indirectly state-funded abortions, too.

Furthermore, it’s unwise for NOW to keep pressing the point that the Amendment keeps women from using “their own money” to access abortion care. It’s not clear whether NOW is counting federal assistance as “their own money” (I think they are). But, even if they’re not, it’s important to remember that this hugely expensive (don’t even try to deny it) plan does lots and lots of things with money that belongs to other people. So while women seeking abortions may be prevented from spending their money in that way, there are tons and tons of taxpayers who are also prevented from spending their money in ways of their choosing. The “their own money” point does not support opposition to this particular bill, it supports opposition to expanding the government’s role in health care in the first place.

Finally, obviously this Bill is not itself an amendment to the constitution and it does not abridge the right to have an abortion. True, it would not in theory respect a right to have an abortion on the government’s tab, and thereby on the tab of pro-choicers, but no such right exists. The Stupak Amendment seems to be the logical extension of the Hyde Amendment, which has long prohibited the funding of abortion using federal Health & Human Services monies. Since now a more expansive health care program is on the table, a more expansive abortion funding policy is needed.

(Of course, I am still ardently pro-choice, and always will be. But nothing regarding positions on the state funding of abortions follows merely from that).

Editing to add: Megan McArdle has some cogents thoughts on this matter in this post: The Health of the Nation

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