More on Abortion and Health Care

Writers like to be noticed by the mainstream media, so perhaps I should be flattered that the Wall Street Journal took cognizance of my existence yesterday. William McGurn, who contributes to the venerable newspaper’s Mainstreet blog, wrote about how pro-life Democrats like Congressman Bart Stupak might become to this decade what Gov. Bob Casey was to the 1990s, a symbol of the Democratic Party’s tone deafness to the pro-life concerns of Catholic swing voters. Towards the end of the article, McGurn wrote: "Yet the liberal religious folks who claim to be pro-life as well as pro-Obama have largely left Mr. Stupak standing alone. Except Michael Sean Winters. In a July 14 blog for the Catholic weekly America, Mr. Winters drew a line in the sand over tax funding for abortion."

I have certainly been forthcoming about my views but Mr. McGurn is wrong to claim I am the only one among the "liberal religious folk" who have been active making my views known to the administration. Indeed, while I think our group blog here at America is the closest thing to a blog that articulates the mind of the Church, I do not think bloggers are as important at this stage of the negotiations over health care as are the actual negotiators. The representatives of the USCCB and the Catholic Health Association, groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Faith in Public Life, these are the groups that the administration is listening to. And, of course, there was the only known instance of public lobbying on the health care bill, seen on national television, when Cardinal Sean O’Malley greeted President Obama at the Mission Church in Boston and told him, according to the cardinal’s own account of the exchange, that the bishops were anxious to support President Obama on health care but that abortion remained a deal-breaker. These are the people that deserve kudos.


My sources, both within the liberal Catholic community and within the administration, tell me that the White House been very solicitous of their views, and specifically interested in working with them to find legislative language that will make the final bill neutral on the subject of abortion. Given the way President Obama was spoken of by some Catholics, including some Catholic bishops, during the furor over his speech at Notre Dame, the President deserves a great deal of credit for not throwing Catholic leaders out of his office! But, President Obama does not seem like a man who holds a grudge and, just as important, at the end of the day he really does need the vote of centrist Catholic swing voters.

There is a problem in writing about health care right now: It is a moving target. There are negotiations going on in both chambers and that will eventually give way to negotiations between the two chambers. The White House is increasingly involved but it is unclear at what point they will insist that the language on abortion fulfills the President’s pledge to Congress and the nation that the final legislation will not provide public monies for abortion. As mentioned yesterday, the issue of government subsidies to private insurance plans is more complicated because the government currently allows you to deduct health care expenses - including expenses for abortion or for insurance policies that cover abortion – from your taxes. If a woman has a current policy that covers abortion, and because of her income level she will now be able to receive a federal subsidy for that policy, I cannot argue with a straight face that keeping the bill "abortion neutral" requires that she not get a subsidy.

Here there emerges a great irony. What if Obama salvages the Public Option and it does not cover abortion coverage, just as the federal plans for members of Congress do not cover abortion. But, private plans can offer abortion or not as they freely choose to do so, as they do so today. Will conservative Catholics – who have spent much of the past thirty years telling us that abortion is the only issue that matters – will they embrace the Public Option as the best was to prevent abortions? Or will their commitment to "free market principles" trump their moral concern for abortion? Or will their hostility to the President find some new avenue for objecting to the bill?




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9 years 3 months ago
"Here there emerges a great irony. What if...?" It would be interesting to see what happens. I hope we gat the chance to see.
9 years 3 months ago
I have no sources within the administration, but I'm glad Mr. Winters does. I fervently hope that he will use whatever influence he has to find out why the Pregnant Women's Support Act has not moved an inch, as best I can tell, since it was introduced at the start of this Congress. (it was also introduced in each of the two most recent Congresses, but it died from inaction in both sessions.) Laden with many programs and efforts aimed at reducing the financial/economic motivation that approximately 50% of women (according to some studies) give for having had an abortion, and having at least some modicum of bipartisan support, the PWSA has the potential for bringing about a substantial reduction in the incidence of abortion. Sure, the administration has Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, health care reform, and a host of other pressing issues on its plate, but there will always be pressing issues, and the loss to abortion in the U.S. of approximately 3,000 human beings a day should also be among the administration's most important priorities.     
9 years 3 months ago
Fed funding for abortion? Since both  ru486 and surgical abortion are not costly..[Let the Gates/Buffet  foundation fund it] Fed funding is really not the issue, The real fight is over the yes or no of Fed  funding as a 'stamp'.; both sides want their  case's stamp of approval or disapproval. We Pro-life Dems need to fight on this 'all the way' .. The pro-abortion people have no money argument or  no poor woman argument. It's all about  jamming government pro-abortion legislation down everyones throats.  
9 years 3 months ago
I dislike the distinction between "conservative" and "liberal" catholics.  It is more accurate to distinguish between "faithful" and "unfaithful" catholics.  I don't think most faithful catholics have stated that "abortion is the only issue that matters."  However, given that the sheer number of abortions (40 million in the US since 1973)  far outweigh the number of lives lost to unjust wars, inadequate health care, executions, etc., abortion is the predominant human rights issue in the US today.
To answer your question, as a Catholic who will support a pro-life candidate over a pro-abortion candidate unless there was proportional reason to do otherwise, I would support a good, fair public option that excluded abortion, euthanasia, & rationing based on perceived "quality of life" over strictly private health care reform that used public funds for any of the aforementioned immoral acts.  There is nothing in Catholic teaching that prohibits government insurance.
9 years 3 months ago
An abortion free bill would indeed be an amazing achievement. No such bill exists or has ever existed. the Democrats have intentionally defeated all amendments to change such bills into bills that don't cover abortion.  All bills with public options cover abortions by at least the Capps method, which Mr. Winters himself says is not a true compromise and unacceptably covers abortion.  And the White House has never disagreed with the false Capps method. 
So Mr. Winters is correct that a great irony is likely to emerge, but it isn't likely to be the irony of an abortion-free plan. It is likely to be the irony of a plan that covers abortion in a way Mr. Winters himself has rejected. Mr. Winters, and other, less internally-consistent liberal Catholics than him, will then be the ones facing the irony-will you stay true to your commitment to truly be against abortion?  Will you keep your promise to oppose those Democrats in 2010 and 2012 in that article that Bill McGurn quited?  Or will you find intricate ways to support abortion coverage, and decide that you just can't keep your promise "with a straight face"?
9 years 3 months ago
The truest thing is that the debate is in flux - and will be for some time.  I find it very disingenuous for those whose motivation is to "beat Obama" on this issue to hide behind abortion funding to do so - especially since the likely final bill will be "abortion neutral."  It cheapens the pro-life cause to tie it to beating Obama and supporting Republican candidates for other issues besides life.
Frankly, the opinion of any candidate on Roe v. Wade is largely irrelevant, since the issue is not a legislative one and since of the now six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court, four will not overturn Roe.  Three of these were appointed by Republicans (Kennedy, Alito and Roberts).  This is why Kmiec and Cadafry supported Obama.  They used to work in the trenches with Roberts and Alito and knew how they vote on this issue. 
The pro-life movement will be stuck in a rut, and widely regarded as the Amen Corner of the Republican Party as long as it values opinions on overturning Roe v. Wade as a litmus test.  There are more constitutional ways to limit and even end abortion.  Fixating on Roe is not one of them.  Fixating on beating Obama on health care won't work either - unless the goal is making RTL fundraisers rich.
9 years 3 months ago
I read Sean Michael Winters' blog over the summer and began to feel like I finally had an ally, a Catholic in the Democratic party who was brave enough to stand up for the unborn in this healthcare debate, even if politicians didn't do so. That was then, this is now and he is singing a very different tune. Frankly, I am not only disappointed with Mr. Winters but a bit hurt. The Pope told the US Ambassador last week that the US government must respect all conscience rights and the US Bishops have been calling for numerous pro-life amendments for months, nearly all of which have been defeated by the Democrats. Still, Mr. Winters (who recently wrote against minimalism) is desperately trying to form a legitimate moral argument that will allow him to bypass those concerns. The recent ''we already do it now'' argument regarding abortion funding and tax-breaks is one of the more pathetic.
9 years 3 months ago
Mr. Winters,
Please tell us again, what would it really take for you to leave your beloved Democratic Party?  I didn't think you had the guts or the conviction to do it.  I hope you can sleep easy with your convoluted logical gymnastics.
9 years 3 months ago
Allowing people to spend my money on abortions is NOT "abortion neutral".
9 years 3 months ago
Joe, they spend it on abortion now, since employer provided plans are subsidized by tax benefits.  Abortion neutrality means that level of support will continue to be tolerated.
As I have long maintained, this debate is about Catholic identity and political power, since any taxpayers responsibility for any abortion, whether directly funded through taxes or subsidized through tax policy, is decidely remote.
There are better ways to go after abortion reduction.  This debate or castigating people on their opinion of Roe v. Wade are not among those ways - unless your agenda is purely electoral and not helping the unborn.


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