Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Abortion and healthcare

Anti-abortion activists and politicians want an outright ban, in healthcare reform proposals, on government subsidies going to any healthcare insurer that pays for abortions. This means that any insurance company that pays for abortions can not offer its plan to individuals who obtain government subsidies; this would include, under plans under consideration, anyone earning up to 300% (400% under some legislation) of the poverty level.

According to the N.Y. Times,

"Democratic Congressional leaders say the latest House and Senate health care bills preserve the spirit of the current ban on federal abortion financing by requiring insurers to segregate their public subsidies into separate accounts from individual premiums and co-payments. Insurers could use money only from private sources to pay for abortions. "

Anti-abortion advocates reject this, claiming (probably correctly) that the this segregation is a purely bookkeeping fiction, since the money eventually comes from the underlying pool of company assets. In other words, the money from either account can be used to support operating expenses etc., removing this expense from the other account. Ultimately, of course, their goal is to prevent anyone from getting an abortion at any time. Their proposed outright ban would pretty much eliminate all abortion coverage under new healthcare programs, since insurance companies providing such coverage could not be part of any new national program -- all of which offer subsidies -- hence would be effectively put out of business. Thus, women who now have this coverage, which is nearly all women with private health insurance, would lose it.

(I don't know what the anti-abortion people are willing to concede about abortions for pregnancies due to rape or incest, or to save the life or health of the mother. Some take a pretty hard line even in these cases.)

Obama, of course, should reject such a ban outright, since it would effectively make his support for abortion rights during his campaign a mockery. What he should do is say: "OK, you want to play hardball, let's be consistent here. Any organization, including a church, which gets government subsidies of any sort, including tax exemption, must be strictly prevented from using any of its money -- publicly or privately provided -- for any sort of political speech or advocacy. This includes supporting or opposing any political candidate or party in any way in any campaign. For example, church leaders may say abortion is wrong, but they may not instruct their flock to vote in any way on the issue. To do otherwise would violate the separation of church and state and the provisions of the tax code. Violators would lose any government grants as well as their tax exemption. Similarly, any organization which uses any part of its budget for religious proselytizing cannot receive any federal funding."

This kind of strong statement is, in fact, merely asking that current rules be obeyed strictly, which they haven't been for decades. Religious organization have long claimed that their budgets are "segregated" into work that is public and work that is religious in nature. But, as the opponents of abortion payments in healthcare have said, this segregation is purely a bookkeeping fiction.

Would Obama or any of the Democratic wimps actually have the guts to make everyone play by the rules?

No comments:

Post a Comment