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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