Tuesday :: Sep 1, 2009

Health Care Reform Opponents: The Abortion Argument Is Factually Wrong, Cynically Sexist


by Turkana

One of the more strident arguments against health care reform is that federal funds will be used to pay for abortions. This is factually wrong, but even if it were true, as an argument against health care reform, it really raises more questions about the people raising the issue than about health care reform itself. I'll get to that, but let's begin with the simple debunking.

As others have elucidated, both President Obama and those submitting health care reform in Congress have been very clear. The president spoke here. The key quote:

Some are also saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false. When it comes to the current ban on using tax dollars for abortions, nothing will change under reform.

I would prefer that such a ban be lifted, as I will explain, but the president could not be more explicit. That's one argument against health care reform that is completely debunked. And the Associated Press also weighs in:

THE POLL: 50 percent expect taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for abortions; 37 percent don't.

THE FACTS: The House version of legislation would allow coverage for abortion in the public plan. But the procedure would be paid for with dollars from beneficiary premiums, not from federal funds. Likewise, private plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to cover abortion, but no federal subsidies would be used to pay for the procedure.

Opponents say the prohibition on federal money for the procedure is merely a bookkeeping trick and what matters is that Washington would allow abortion to be covered under government-subsidized insurance.

Obama has stated that the U.S. should continue its tradition of "not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care." Current laws prohibiting public financing of abortion would stay on the books.

Yet abortion guidelines are not yet clear for the government-supervised insurance exchange. There is strong sentiment in Congress on both sides of the issue.

Bookkeeping trick or not, federal funds will not be used to pay for abortions. Period. But I want to get to the argument itself. What if federal funds were to be used for abortions? Why would that be a problem? To me, using abortion as an argument against health care reform is a problem.

First of all, I wonder why the argument is even made. Does a person making such an argument simply oppose reproductive choice? If so, they're not really arguing against health care reform, they're arguing against an established legal right. And if they support reproductive choice, but are using it to argue against health care reform, they're simply being dishonest and manipulative. Does knowing that federal funds won't be used for abortions change their view on the issue of health care reform? Then why even make such an inflammatory argument, in the first place?

If they're upset about the use of their tax dollars for purposes they find objectionable, let's just return to the succinct argument made by our friend clammyc:

Well, excuse me, but I don’t recall having the option of not paying for the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, or the continuing occupation that was funneling hundreds of billions to Halliburton, Blackwater and other waste or fraud. I never got to reduce my federal income tax by the amount that I didn’t want going towards the ridiculous "investigation" by Kenneth Starr of a blowjob. And I certainly didn’t get to say "no fucking way" when it came to giving major tax loopholes to big oil, giveaways to big pharma or big insurance.

I could go on and on: I didn't have the choice about paying for secret renditions, or war crimes such as torture, or corporate welfare, or the bridge to nowhere, or...

But what really bothers me is that the argument is blatantly sexist. Accidental pregnancy does not happen without the participation of a man, but the man is not required to participate in the responsibility of the pregnancy. Even if both participants knew they were not trying to create a pregnancy, only the woman carries the burden of dealing with the pregnancy. The man is not, in any way, required to participate in ending the pregnancy. And even if the woman is forced to carry the pregnancy to term, despite laws designed to confer some responsibility to the man, we all know how often the woman is left alone, in every possible way, once the child arrives. There is a subtle, yet very clear, judgment being made about a woman who accidentally becomes pregnant. As if she should be punished. Why should she be punished? Why should the man not be punished? What's the real point to this argument? Any time you hear this argument, dig into it a little, and you may find a real ugliness at its core.

And what also really bothers me is the depth of the hypocrisy of these ostensible conservatives. They claim to want less government, but if paying for abortion, specifically, is the reason they oppose health care reform, then they're really talking about social engineering. They're talking about the government deciding what kind of health care is worth paying for and what kind is not. Which again suggests that what they're really doing is casting judgment on women, specifically, who accidentally become pregnant. Because the men who participated in causing the unwanted pregnancies are not going to be having the medical procedures that will end them.

But let's expand the argument. If these opponents of health care reform are actually trying to argue against irresponsible behavior, do they also think the government shouldn't pay for those afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases? How about for the very expensive treatments when smokers get cancer or heart disease or emphysema? Well more than a quarter of all Americans are clinically obese, with an annual medical cost of more than $75,000,000,000 a year, nationwide. So, why are people arguing against federal funds for abortion, but not against federal funds for the far far more expensive medical treatment of diseases that are caused by lifestyle choices? We return to the basic questions: are they being deliberately inflammatory, to obfuscate their real motives, or are they, in fact, casting social judgment?

In the end, the argument is moot. There will be no federal funds for abortion, under the Democratic plans for health care reform. But any time you hear someone use abortion funding as an excuse to oppose health care reform, before getting to the facts, ask a few questions. Because it's always good to get people to look inside themselves. And what's inside these opponents of health care reform deserves to be revealed.

Turkana :: 4:31 AM :: Comments (32) :: Digg It!