Kudos for Casey and a Bronx Cheer for NRLC

Well, the knives are out. Senator Bob Casey has come forward with a compromise proposal regarding federal funding of abortion in the health care reform bill and some pro-life advocates are already piling on. Mind you, no one really knows precisely what is in the proposal at this point, but why let a little thing like facts get in the way.

Douglas Johnson is so unrelentingly hostile and strident I think his group should change its name to the Nasty Right to Life Committee. He denounced Sen. Casey’s efforts in stark terms: "This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable…This is an exercise is cosmetics -- like putting lipstick on a legislative warthog." I confess the reference to a warthog is a nice touch.

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On the merits of the issue, incidentally, I happen to agree with Johnson. I think the idea of segregating funds in a non-starter. I also think he should have the decency to acknowledge, however, that thirty states use the segregated funds approach to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients using state money and in many if not all of those states, there is really no effort to segregate the funds. The reason there is no effort is, I suspect, because money really is fungible as the USCCB has recognized. So, one of the effects of the health care debate is that we are realizing that the Hyde Amendment may not do what it purports to do, and that is worth looking at.

Theoretically, there is a way to segregate funds so that no federal dollars go to support abortion coverage, but the segregation of funds doesn’t really matter. If subsidized plans can cover abortion, there will be an increase in the number of people who have abortion coverage. But, it is not clear what effect that will have on the abortion rate: Only about 12% of abortions in America are currently paid for by insurance plans as most women prefer to pay out of pocket and maintain their privacy. Yes, some studies indicate that women who have abortion coverage are more likely to get an abortion but those studies do not apply to the current health care reform debate because only with the reform will all women have health insurance for childbirth! Johnson and his apologists at right-wing groups like CatholicVote.org and the American Life League are just as capable of distorting facts and arguments as is Sen. Barabara Boxer.

It also can’t be repeated too often that groups like NRLC and the American Principles Project and other right-wing outfits have contributed to the likelihood that the Senate will pass something that extends abortion coverage. Go to Mr. Johnson’s website and the heading says, "Stop Abortion and Rationing in Health Care!" Rationing? Of course, health care is rationed today. The concern about rationing is a GOP talking point and it gives away NRLC’s true objective which is to defeat the bill no matter what. Just so, as I have never tired of repeating, they give the Congress and the White House no reason to listen to them. They are going to oppose the bill no matter what. The USCCB, by contrast, has made clear that they want health care reform but that they can’t support a bill that extends coverage. The bishops bring something to the table which is why they get listened to.

The reason to oppose the extension of abortion coverage is not primarily a practical objection because no one knows how this health care reform will play out exactly. The reason to support the firmer language of the Stupak Amendment is that we think it is important that the government register the fact that, while abortion might be considered a constitutional right under Roe, it is not a procedure that we want to encourage in any way, shape or form. Even those who are committed to keeping abortion legal may have a deep and profound ambivalence about abortion, and the Hyde Amendment registered that ambivalence.

There is one other point here that needs to be made. Sen. Bob Casey is trying his best to find a way to advance the health care debate and to accommodate the concerns of pro-life advocates, indeed, to honor his own pro-life commitments. These issues are never as cut-and-dried as the zealots of left and right would have you think. I wish Casey would dig in a little more forcefully, the way others dug in opposing the public option, but I applaud his effort to keep negotiating. I am sure that any legislative language built around segregating funds will not pass muster with the USCCB and probably not with me either for that matter. But, the demonization of Sen. Casey is a Republican, not a Catholic and not a pro-life objective. Remember that next time you get an email alert from Mr. Johnson.

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Michael Liddy
8 years ago
Did you really call the National Right to Life Committee the Nasty Right to Life Committee? The group that has worked tirelessly fundraising, lobbying, educating, and praying for decades to stop abortions, and they have stopped tens of thousands. Doug Johnson has been there for years and all we should be doing is thanking him; some of us should thank him for our life.
Tony Annett
8 years ago
The NRLC is a partisan sham. They downplayed stem-cell reserach while McCain was a candidate, and "up-played" it immediately after he lost. They have opposed all health care reform for years, oblivious to the pro-life dimension of health care, and the fact that abortion is so highly concentrated among poor and minority women.

The whole "rationing" canard gives a clue to their partisanship. They are unaware that rationing by cost is endemic in the US health care system, moreso than any comparator country. If they want a country that provides universal affordable high-quality healthcare without rationing, they should look to France. But they don't do that, do they?
Think Catholic
8 years ago
MSW you know all about not letting the facts get in the way.  "thirty states use the segregated funds approach to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients using state money"?  You seem to have it backwards.  Only 17 states pay for abortions in Medicaid-33 states do not.  http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/choice-action-center/in_your_state/who-decides/fast-facts/low-income-women.html 
 
And it is sad that you have joined the club of denial over the massive abortion-expanding effect of a health reform bill that gives every woman free abortions (as ALL Democrat versions and "compromises" do):  "Approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable."  http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/MedicaidLitReview.pdf
 
Any bill that allows government funding of insurance plans covering abortion is a massive expansion of abortion.  I am glad that "On the merits of the issue, incidentally, I happen to agree with Johnson."  I hope you will stick to your promise to stand with the USCCB against abortion in health reform and against politicians who cause it to happen.  Any Catholic liberal who won't stand by Stupak never really wanted pro-life Democrats in the first place, they just sold that bill of goods to get Catholics to vote for Obama.
Think Catholic
8 years ago
And likewise, Minion knows all about partisan shams, being another Catholic liberal who has abandonned the pro-life Democrat coalition led by Stupak even though he supported the takeover by pro-abortion Democrats on the basis that it would usher in a new era of pro-life Democrats and abortion reduction.  Instead anything his D party wants he supports, and any pro-life opponents are partisans.
Michael Liddy
8 years ago
AP WASHINGTON — Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson — the moderate Democrat whose opposition is holding up the Senate's health care bill — says new language on abortion doesn't satisfy his concerns.

Nelson told KLIN radio in Lincoln, Nebraska, Thursday that an attempt at compromise doesn't get to the fundamental issue of barring federal funding for abortions.

Nelson says without further changes the compromise isn't sufficient.

Catholic and anti-abortion groups have also weighed in against the new language, which attempts to separate public from private funding of abortion.

Democrats are wooing Nelson in order to get the 60 votes needed to pass a sweeping health care bill by Christmas.

But Nelson said abortion wasn't his only concern and he didn't see how the Christmas deadline could be met.
Douglas Johnson
8 years ago
Mr. Winters says, ''Mind you, no one really knows precisely what is in the proposal at this point, but why let a little thing like facts get in the way.'' The reason that ''no one knows precisely what is in the proposal'' is that Senator Casey is trying to wrap up a deal on language without actually showing actual bill language to us or to other interested citizen groups. He is engaged in this stealth-legislation project on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is writing a massive ''manager's amendment'' - an extensive rewrite to the entire health care bill - behind closed doors. If Reid gets his way, the first time the public will see the abortion language - or any of the rest of the ''manager's amendment'' - will be when the new package is slapped down on the Senate clerk's desk along with a ''cloture petition,'' which means: take it or leave it, no further changes, not much debate, vote. So much for government in the sunshine.

Since Senator Casey is trying to get people to endorse his proposal based on summary representations, we will respond on the basis of the information provided. If he thinks we have it wrong, then let everybody see the bill language.

Mr. Winters says that I lack ''the decency to acknowledge, however, that thirty states use the segregated funds approach to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients using state money and in many if not all of those states, there is really no effort to segregate the funds.'' I must indecently point out that this is pure fiction. The Hyde Amendment explicitly prohibits any Medicaid fund from paying for abortions (except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother's life), and this prohibition explicitly applies to state Medicaid matching funds. A state can set up a program to pay for abortions with state funds, whether for Medicaid-eligible people or anybody else, and 17 (not 30) have done so, but when they pay for those abortions, it is not Medicaid per se but a state program (as Dennis Smith, the official who ran the program under President Bush, recently pointed out in a monograph on the subject). Fund segregation does not enter into it because the state program is entirely under state control. In contrast, the Reid bill establishes a new program in which FEDERAL funds would be used to purchase private health plans that cover abortion on demand. This would be a sharp break from the principles of the Hyde Amendment (see above), which have also long governed the Federal Employees Health Benefits programs - none of which are allowed to cover elective abortions, although they are private plans, because they are federally subsidized.

By the way, the Senate actually has already made the original Reid bill WORSE on abortion by adopting, on December 3, the Mikulski Amendment, under which the federal Department of Health and Human Services would have authority to order every PRIVATE health plan in the country to cover any service listed as a ''preventive'' service. Can you think of a likely procedure to be put on such a list? One Senate Democrat pointed out the danger that this amendment could provide the legal basis for a sweeping abortion mandate, and voted against it: Senator Ben Nelson (D-Ne.).

Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
Washington, D.C.
http://www.nrlc.org
legfederal // at // aol-dot-come
James Lindsay
8 years ago
Mr. Johnson, federal tax subsidies already pay for abortion on demand through private insurance. This likely won't be allowed to change.
Michael Liddy
8 years ago
I enjoy reading Mr. Winters but he is not a legal scholar. Douglas Johnson and National Right to Life have spent decades on this - they know the federal code inside and out, they know the legislators, they know the legislative rules and the tricks that our legislators use - the kind that we only hear about after they happen, they know federal and state court rulings and precedent and they have been down this road before with past health care overhauls and many other efforts to add/amend/change federal law. And it should be noted that there would never, ever have been any Stupak Amendment if not for the NRLC. I applaud the Bishops, but they almost dropped the ball on this, coming to the aide of the unborn at a very late stage in the House debate. The NRLC, however, was there all along this past year providing the legal arguments regarding abortion funding in every one of the healthcare bills - these are the arguments that the Media fact-checked to be false and then finally came around to fact-check to be true, these are the arguments that many of us questioned but began to accept as we became more educated about the law. If they weren't leading the charge for life all year long and doing so at times when no one would listen, we would have had tax-payer funded abortions passed months ago. Thank them MSW. An apology would be nice too.
Tim Lacy
8 years ago
The NRLC lost all credibility years ago when it began deliberately confusing party politics with abortion abolition.  Abortion is not a party issue, but a Catholic-Christian issue.  Because it's a Catholic-Christian issue, education across the culture is the ~primary~ means for forwarding the battle.  Politics reflects cultural realities, it doesn't dictate them-never has.  That's what top-down, hierarchical, so-called ''first things'' Catholic conservatives keep forgetting-i.e. that we live in a democracy.  For the past 30 years or so of the culture wars, however, they have insisted upon putting the cart (politics) before the horse (education). - TL
8 years ago
This from Deal Hudson:

The bottom line: the fact that Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. would recommend language making federal funding of abortion the default position of health care reform proves once and for all he is not “pro-life.”

Casey’s “compromise” language is a compromise all right — it compromises the Catholic Church’s teaching on the protection of innocent life.

Bill Collier
8 years ago
Three days ago, the USCCB, through Cardinal DiNardo, wrote to the Senate about the incongruity in some legislators’ opposition to the Nelson Amendment, yet recent “overwhelming” support of essentially the same statutory language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA).

Some excerpts from the USCCB’s 12/14/09 letter:

“The central argument against the Nelson amendment, voiced during floor debate by many Senators, was that this amendment goes too far by barring federal subsidies to entire
health plans that include abortion coverage. The three-decades-long precedent of the Hyde amendment and similar provisions governing all other federal health programs, it
was claimed, is this: Federal funds may not be used “directly” for an elective abortion,but non-Federal funds such as private premium dollars may be used in the same health plan for such abortions. The underlying health care reform bill was said to respect this tradition by “segregating” funds with plans to allow “private” funding of abortion. It was chiefly on the basis of this argument that the Nelson amendment was tabled....

However, yesterday’s overwhelming vote to approve the Consolidated Appropriations Act creates a new situation. In that vote, almost all Democrats, including almost
every Senator who claimed the Nelson amendment’s policy goes too far, voted in favor of that exact policy. For these Senators voted to retain the actual current language of the Hyde amendment, and of the parallel provision governing abortion in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program – and that language clearly requires a policy in all other federal health programs that is identical to that of the Nelson amendment.”

The letter then sets forth the language of the Nelson and Hyde Amendments, and the language approved in the CAA as to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), before continuing as follows:

“Literally the only substantive difference between these noncontroversial and widely supported provisions [i.e., the Hyde Amendment and the FEHBP] and the Nelson amendment is that the latter explains at length that (a) it does not prevent purchasers who do not receive federal subsidies from buying a health plan including elective abortions, even on the Exchange created by the health carereform bill, and (b) it does not prevent purchasers receiving federal subsidies from buying separate supplemental abortion coverage with their own funds.

....

From the outset of the health care reform debate, we have not sought to use this legislation as a vehicle for advancing the pro-life cause – and we have urged others not to use it to advance the pro-abortion cause. The current Senate bill fails to achieve this balance. While its abortion language has been called a “compromise,” it is only a compromise between current law and a broader policy on abortion funding, as it explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history. Health care reform is too urgently needed to be placed at risk by one lobbying group’s insistence on changing the law. Before the Senate considers final votes on its health care reform legislation, please incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself only yesterday. Please give the American people health care reform that respects the life, health and consciences of all.”

The 2/14 letter is available in its entirety here:

http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/DiNardo_1214_letter.pdf
William Kurtz
8 years ago
All one needs to know about NRLC's direction in the last several years can be found in a Wisconsin judicial ethics case this fall. James Bopp, NRLC general counsel since 1978, represented a state supreme court justice facing complaints that he used false statements in his campaign advertising.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, under questioning by a three-judge panel Bopp ''said judges have a right to mislead voters in their campaign ads. 'I don't think misleading is something good, (but) it can't be sanctioned,'' he said."
As MSW said, why let facts get in the way? Anything for a victory.
Tony Annett
8 years ago
Mr. Johnson's repsonse is most disingenious. Relying on the advice of a Bush administration official, he is satisfied that sufficient firewalls exist at the state level. He completely ignores the fungibility of money, and how this separation of federal-funded medicaid and state-funded medicaid gets close to the kind of accounting chimera he so strongly criticizes in the current context. More broadly, why is state funding of abortion less immoral than federal funding? And for that matter, why does the NRLC not spend a single iota of its energy attacking the cozy alliance between big insurance and the abortion business? As I keep saying, that is the root of the problem.

And Mr. Johnson failed to retract his shameful misinformation and obfuscation regarding rationing.
Jeff Bagnell
8 years ago
This bill is going down in flames as it should.  Not just because it seeks to put the democrat party's greedy hand into our pockets to pay for abortion, but the clandestine way in which it is being drafted.  Where is the transparency?  The C-SPAN hearings?  The Democrats will be lucky to not lose majorities in both houses in 2010 after this debacle. 
8 years ago
Someone's prayers are being answered. When can we say, Amen!
Think Catholic
8 years ago
Minion's continued complaints are becoming delusional.  "why is state funding of abortion less immoral than federal funding?"  NRLC is the entity responsible for opposing state funding of abortion in Medicaid, and achieving that goal in those 33 states.  Meanwhile Minion is the one working to achieve the opposite on the federal level-a federal health regime actually, not imaginarily, funding abortion insurance for women in all those 33 states where NRLC is to thank for keeping it out thusfar, and chucking the Hyde amendment principle in the process. Minion is pushing a plan that funds abortion, and blaming it on the people who have prevented funding of abortion so far.     
Michael Liddy
8 years ago
Dear MSW - Admitting we are wrong is a sign of strength. Douglas Johnson responded to your attack and did so with logical, factual information. Are you going to correct your writing or are you just going to leave erroneous claims and data out there under your name? I don't think you would do so in the print version of America. Why is it acceptable here? Thank you.
Joseph Farrell
8 years ago
This attack on the NRLC is absurd. That a Catholic magazine would attack one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the country in order to defend a compromise that would allow us to drift ever closer to providing federal funds for abortion is uncalled for.

I've been a great fan of many features of America, but it's about time the Jesuits reign in these articles that undermine those of us working in the trenches of the pro-life movement.

8 years ago
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Joe.
8 years ago
The actual letter sent by the National Right to Life Committee to Senator Casey is posted on the NRLC website here:  http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/CaseyProposalNRLCOppositionLetter.pdf
Anyone who is interested in really understanding the grounds for NRLC's concerns regarding provisions of the bill that could lead to government-imposed rationing of lifesaving care for the medically dependent and disabled (as opposed to merely repeating sound bites picked up off MSNBC) can find abundent material here:  http://www.nrlc.org/HealthCareRationing/Index.html
Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
legfederal // at // aol-dot-com
8 years ago
Thank you Mr.Johnson for your untiring efforts. Thank you also for posting the letter you sent to Senator Casey. It was illuminating. What irony that the Nelson-Hatch ammendment failed on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8.
Tony Annett
8 years ago
Mr. Johnson's latest comment is highly offensive. Some of us do not get our talking points from MSNBC. Some of us are trained economists who have been following the intricate details of healthcare for years, and find it outrageous that a partisan amateur can make these arguments about "rationing". Let me break it to him - healthcare is already rationed. In fact, of all comparator countries, rationing is highest in the United States. This rationing is done by cost, and is usually instigated by private insurance or private providers. This is the grave scandal of America's anti-life health care system.
The second point is that the cost of American healthcare is the highest in the world, with nothing to show for it. Americans pay more than twice as much per capita per healthcare, and outcomes are actually worse (think of life expectancy, infant mortality, etc). And who is paying the price? Ordinary people, through lower wages - this is the great hidden cost of healthcare. It is one of the primary reasons why median real income has been stagnant since the early 1970s. Any Catholic would recognize that the living wage is becoming harder to attain.
While imperfect in so many ways, the latest Senate bill is quite revolutionary on cost control. Right now, reimbursement is based on quantity of treatment, thus creating the incentive to overtreat. The bill has a number of small elements that in combintion could significantly "bend the curve" and prevent the unsustainable rise in healthcare costs, which already swallow 16 percent of GDP. Has Mr. Johnson given any thought to what will happen in the future if the status quo continues? It's not pretty, and the most vulnerable will suffer most. The key elements of cost containment include the Medicare Commission, bundled payments, prudent purchasing (control over entry to exchanges), the excise tax on high-value health insurance, comparative effectiveness review, better health information technology, and the individual mandate. This is all geared toward controlling costs, while protecting benefits and moving toward universal coverage.
I would love for once the NRLC to come out and declare that universal healthcare is a basic human right. It is a pillar of Catholic social teaching. Instead, they complain about stripping away subsidies to private insurance to cover Medicare patients, not recognizing that the reason for doing this is because traditional Medicare can deliver the same care for less money (yes, there are some things the government does better). They complain about sliding toward euthanasia, while "death panels" already exist - they are called private insurance companies and hospital boards. In Texas, for example, hispital ethics committees can withdraw life suataining treatment based on cost even over the objections of the family. Oh yes, and this was signed into law by a man called George Bush. Where was the NRLC then?
While the NRLC rails against cuts to Medicare, I would like to know where it was when the GOP pushed for cuts of 14 percent in 1995 and 13 prercent in 1997 - far far more than anthing envisaged today. When the NRLC rails against end-of-life counselling, I would like to know where it was when the exact same provision was included in the GOP 203 bill. In short, maybe it could be a little less partisan and a little more pro-life?
Tony Annett
8 years ago
One more comment on the NRLC:
I once attend a NRLC event, at the Waldorf in NYC in the mid-1990s. The food was excellent. I was more naive in those days, though. But when I saw some of the people in attendance, and being honored, I recoiled in horror. For there was Phyllis Schlalfy, a woman who is on record defending the American use of nuclear weapons. Now, Moral Theology 101 tells us that she is defending an intrinsically evil anti-life act on consequentialist grounds - exactly like the defenders of abortion. And she is held in high regard by a movement dubbed "pro life"? I left that dinner in disgust, and have not dealt with the NRLC since.
7 years 12 months ago
Part I. As the director of the National Right to Life Committee’s (NRLC) Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, which is responsible for advocating the pro-life group’s position on euthanasia-related issues, including opposition to rationing of life-saving medical treatment, food and fluids based on ''quality of life'' criteria, let me respond to a number of factual errors in the attacks in this blog on our position and the history of our activities in support of it. To do so adequately, I will take the liberty of posting in 3 parts in light of the 2000 character limit.
It is alleged that we have done nothing to advance access to health insurance for all. Look, please, at our website under www.nrlc.org/MedEthics/SaveNotRation.html where you will find comprehensive information about the detailed proposal we put forth at our 2007 convention (a proposal whose basic principles we had been advocating for over a decade) , demonstrating how health insurance for all could be funded without rationing. NRLC’s Powell Center personnel have worked tirelessly, if so far unsuccessfully, to promote that approach in a number of state legislatures as well as in Congress.
We do indeed assert – and here we differ with as many conservatives and Republicans as liberals and Democrats – that America CAN afford to continue to increase the proportion of our GDP devoted to saving lives through health care, and that efforts to limit continuing increases in health care expenditures or ''bend the cost curve'' are fundamentally unnecessary and undesirable. See http://www.nrlc.org/MedEthics/AmericaCanAfford.html and especially take the time to view the webinar http://nrlcomm.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/hcrwebinar/ .
More to come . . .
Burke J. Balch, J.D., Director, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, National Right to Life Committee
7 years 12 months ago
Part II. To the charge that the National Right to Life Committee’s view that America CAN afford to continue to increase the proportion of our GDP devoted to saving lives through health care without rationing, and that efforts to limit continuing increases in health care expenditures or ''bend the cost curve'' are fundamentally unnecessary and undesirable.t comes that America comes from a ''partisan amateur'' rather than ''trained economists who have been following the intricate details of health care for years,'' let me refer you to the work of President Obama’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services, Columbia University health care economist Sherry Glied. While assertion is in fundamental agreement with the conclusions of health care economists across the ideological spectrum from David Cutler and William Baumol to Robert Hall and Charles Jones, Professor Glied’s book ''Chronic Condition: Why Health Reform Fails'' presents particularly detailed and documented analysis. While I do not mean to suggest that Professor Glied (or any other of the economists cited) specifically approves of NRLC or has supported our particular proposal, I will maintain that, although there are important nuances of difference, in the main our proposal was compatible with the approach promoted in that book by President Obama’s nominee.
The often-heard claim that the higher rate of per capita health care expenditure in the U.S. results in outcomes that are ''actually worse (think of life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.)'' than in other countries, as one blogger put it, is refuted at http://www.nrlc.org/news/2009/NRL05/InaccurateGrounds.html .
More to come . . .
Burke J. Balch, J.D., Director, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, National Right to Life Committee
7 years 12 months ago
Part III. A blogger asks, ''While the NRLC rails against cuts in Medicare, I would like to know where it was when the GOP pushed for cuts of 14 percent in 1995 and 13 percent in 1997 . . . .'' Well, you might want to read my September 15, 1995 op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled, ''Managed Medicare: Medicare for the Elderly Should Not Be Rationed.'' The fact is that the National Right to Life Committee went toe-to-toe against the House Republican leadership for years in our ultimately successful effort to accomplish an alternative option within Medicare that could avoid managed care and rationing. See the documentation at http://www.nrlc.org/MedEthics/RationinginMedicare.html .
?
While NRLC has in general criticized cutting back on Medicare as a means to subsidize extension of health care insurance (''robbing Peter to pay Paul'') in contrast to more appropriate and sustainable means of funding such an extension, we have taken no position – either this year or in the past – on the specific issue of how much government funding should be provided to Medicare Advantage plans (''subsidies to private insurance to cover Medicare patients''). We have instead focused on preserving the ability of senior citizens, if they choose, to add their own funds on top of the government subsidy in order to achieve care less like to be rationed. We have maintained that, because of private-sector cost-shifting, this is more likely to lead to better care for those who cannot afford to add their own money; see http://www.nrlc.org/MedEthics/JusticeArgument.html .
More to come . . . (I'll need a fourth and final part.)
Burke J. Balch, J.D., Director, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, National Right to Life Committee
7 years 12 months ago
Part IV. A blogger states that '' ‘death panels’ already exist – they are called private insurance companies and hospital boards.'' NRLC has been as ready to oppose discriminatory denial of treatment by managed care insurance as by the government: see, e.g. http://www.nrlc.org/Medicare/MCtheatenrationing.html . With regard to our long-standing battle to prevent hospital ethics committees from denying treatment against the will of patients – a battle that has helped to pass legislation requiring provision of treatment in a number of states, see http://www.nrlc.org/medethics/ProtectingAgainstProviders.html . For the specifics on our involvement with the Texas law signed by then-Governor George Bush the blogger cites – I personally traveled to Austin almost monthly during key years before and after its 1999 enactment to assist the Texas Right to Life Committee in fighting involuntary denial of treatment– see http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/Terri/BushTexasLaw.html .
The accusation that NRLC is ''right wing'' or ''partisan'' is false. How do people suppose that we were able to get so many Democratic Representatives to support the Stupak Amendment? Our state affiliates and national organization have long worked with and supported pro-life Democrats. I am sorry that one blogger was offended upon attending an NRLC-sponsored event to find that it was also attended by prominent conservatives. The fact is that we are a single-issue organization, and we are effective precisely because we are a coalition of liberals and conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Socialists, people of every religious affiliation and of none. I can assure you that in informal discussions at social occasions, staff members at our national office argue vigorously with each other about just about every contentious issue other than abortion and euthanasia. The pro-life movement has been called – accurately, I believe – one of the greatest social reform movements in contemporary America. Our fight on behalf of the lives of the most vulnerable in our society – unborn children, older people, and people with disabilities – will not be deterred by mischaracterizations.
Burke J. Balch, J.D., Director, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, National Right to Life Committee
7 years 12 months ago
Mr. Winters has it backwards. The NRLC position is on the Left, not the Right, in that it is concerned about the real-world human freedom and equality rather than the nominal equivalents traditionally favored by the Right. (That is, the Right has long been for equal legal freedoms to work, go to school, etc. while ignoring de facto differnces in power and wealth that make for unequal outcomes.)
Making abortion financially costless through federal subsidies (as Reid-Nelson will do, except in those states that refuse the federal funds) may appear to make women more free, but in fact it empowers those men who control their sexual partners (especially among the poor). Ordinary abortion is not expensive, but the decision to spend any money at all is a real-world point of deliberation and negotiation. As the cost of an abortion is reduced almost to zero, some women will lose a last locus of possible resistance to their exploiters: "Just you get on down to that clinic, sweetheart. It's free."
The Left should be concerned about one more real-world result (and, for some, purpose) of federal abortion funding: its disproportionate effect on minority races.
7 years 12 months ago
On "rationing": Private plans may "ration" care in the interests of profits without seeming to judge who is more worthy to live. But when the political community rations care it somehow appears to make invidious distinctions.
For example, if a private plan charges a higher premium to include cardiac care for those over 65, those having to pay the higher premium will be unhappy but will probably understand that this is just a business judgment that young people have fewer heart problems and does not reflect any notion that older folks are less worthy to live.
By contrast, if the political community (in a public insurance plan) charges the old more than the young for the same benefit, this may well seem unfair and in fact may become a precedent for further unequal treatments of different ages.
There is no space here to elaborate upon the rationality or irrationality of the different standards to which we hold private companies vs. public authrities, but we certainly do so (and not only re health insurance; see e.g. private vs. state action that discriminates on the basis of religion).

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A reflection for the third Sunday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 16, 2017
Homeless people are seen in Washington June 22. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee, released a statement Nov. 17 proclaiming that the House of Representatives "ignored impacts to the poor and families" in passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act the previous day. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
The United States is thwarting the advancement of millions of its citizens, a UN rapporteur says.
Kevin ClarkeDecember 16, 2017
Why not tax individuals for what they take out of society instead of what they contribute?
Paul D. McNelis, S.J.December 15, 2017