Queries: Abortion, Government and ChoicePosted: November 8, 2009
As we inch closer to health care reform, the reproductive rights of women are again a matter of debate (mostly among people who are not women.) The Pitts-Stupak Amendment, the brainchild of Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan (D) and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania was passed along with the bill last night, an amendment that would not cover abortion as part of a public health care option.
Many, including my buddy Melissa Harris-Lacewell, were outraged last night, and considered this a Prop 8-type body blow on a night that should be one of victory. As a Pitts (-Wiley) who is pro-choice, I couldn’t agree more. While Pitts and Stupak can attempt to spin this amendment any way they wish, it is decidedly anti-choice and another example of men who can’t have babies telling women who can what to do.
Me, Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts are not BFF right now in any way.
Still, I have questions and concerns I would like to voice on the matter of reproductive rights and government-funded health care. My concerns have nothing to do with the choice side of reproductive rights and everything to do with the nature of government involvement and what that ultimately means for choice. I don’t pretend to have come to any conclusions on the matter; I have questions and concerns I want to toss out. A few things before we get down to the nitty gritty:
- I differentiate between what I think and government policy i.e. if only my thoughts counted, a woman’s reproductive rights would be a non-issue. However, I don’t run America (yet); it’s made up of lots of different points of view which I try to take into consideration when considering choices that affect American citizens.
- My concerns (and therefore approach) are of a philosophical, macro-level nature. They are oriented around government involvement in reproductive matters, namely abortion. I take no issue at all with coverage of birth control, pre- and postnatal coverage or post-operative care of any procedure, including abortion. My questions and concerns revolve around the difficult matter of abortion itself. If you’re kind enough to take the time to answer, let’s attempt to stay on topic in that way.
- I’ve heard a lot of people say “Abortion is a legal medical procedure. It should be covered period.” While I take no exception with the legal element of the procedure, I find that response lacking and unhelpful as I consider the matter. Yes; abortion is a legal medical procedure, but such an answer is one that exists in a vacuum and doesn’t take into account history or policy or debate around the matter. Whether it should be or not, abortion is something bigger than “a legal medical procedure” and I find that matter-of-fact sort of response to be the same sort that the left often accuses the right of shilling. It’s understandable and a reasonable point of view, but, for me, it does nothing to further the discussion.
- All these questions are real and not of the leading, “Aha, see how I funneled you toward my totally right conclusion!” variety.
QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS
1. What is the nature of being pro-choice? My personal definition is one that consists of a woman being allowed to make reproductive choices without government intervention or interference. In the matter of abortion, how is government funding not involvement in a woman’s choices?
2. As I stated earlier, abortion is a medical procedure bigger than the setting of a broken foot or the treatment of cancer. Whether it should or should not be is of little relevance. It is a matter that involves existence on the biological level and all different people have all different kinds of opinions involving it and the federal government’s stance in the last thirty years has been, more or less, to stay out of it, much to the chagrin of those on both sides of the issue. That is the precedent that has been set. Would government funding change that precedent?
3. At the risk of being sensational, the policy parallel to respecting a woman’s right to choose seems to be terrorist negotiations. The government’s policy in the last thirty-plus years has been that we do not negotiate with terrorists (Yes; I’m dealing with the policy principle and know that there’s political flexibility here). This policy gives a good deal of leverage when it comes to security threats, but can be fairly shitty if you end up in an actual hostage situation (Ask Jimmy Carter). Is the other side of choice an acknowledgment that abortion is a situation in which some people get left in the lurch in order to maintain the integrity of choice?
4. On the level of dollars and cents and government, I’m given a good deal of cause to pause. In my observations, the federal government does not simply give money out of the goodness of its heart. Health care reform, to me, makes sense on the moral level, but, in the more basic level, America benefits from having a robust and healthy populace. It’s hard to be a world power when everyone is either sick or fat or both. In terms of abortion coverage by insurance, what is the government asking for? What is it asking of the women whom the funding is looking to help? Money changing hands between parties who don’t know each other like that is often akin to a contractual obligation.
5. What is the nature of being pro-choice in an America where public insurance is a reality? I have no problems with policies changing and being flexible on precedent. What once was does not have to always be. On the matter of a woman’s choice in general and abortion in particular, I fear that without explicitly acknowledging a policy sea change by both those who side with choice and the government itself, the essence of choice is at risk of being eroded.
6. From my viewpoint, one that has never lived under anything resembling public insurance accessibility, I fear that government funding of abortion is tantamount to government involvement, even though it’s involvement that I don’t personally have a problem with. Is help that could potentially benefit many more important than the integrity of choice? Is choice static or something flexible and organic that changes with time? Does publicly-funded healthcare change the complexion of choice?
The Pitts-Stupak Amendment got it wrong. Guys that can’t have babies were totally comfortable telling women who can that they wouldn’t be able to make choices about their lady parts, particularly women who can’t afford the alternative. That’s supremely wack.
In the United States of Pitts-Wiley, this is not an issue. When I take over the country in a bloodless coup, rest assured that there will be nothing Pitts-Stupakian about it. But that hasn’t happened yet. I’m just one guy with questions, questions about a belief that I earnestly support. Perhaps I’m focused too much on the macro. Perhaps I’m missing some essential angle.
Still, I have questions about choice and what that means when government lends a helping hand.