Winters on Gibbs

Michael Sean Winters on the recent statement made by Obama Administration spokeperson Robert Gibbs “that decisions on specific benefits such as abortion coverage should be ‘left to medical experts in the field,’ referring to a proposed advisory board that would recommend minimum levels of coverage for private insurers”:

The White House should insist that health care reform not be used as a vehicle for the pro-life or for the pro-choice groups to advance their agendas. Health care reform should be abortion-neutral, neither making the procedure more available nor more difficult to procure. Beset by arguments about how to save costs, how to pay for the overhaul, and all the various other aspects of the complicated reform effort, the last thing those who favor reform need is a debate about abortion which brings such powerful passions into play.

There is an easy way to achieve this. Policies that are to receive federal subsidies can’t provide abortion services in their basic policies but the consumer who is selecting the policy and receiving the subsidy can, with his or her own money, get a “rider” to the policy that covers abortion. This way, no federal dollars will be used for procuring insurance that covers abortion services and no woman would be in a different situation from the situation she is in currently. The federal option, if it passes, could follow a similar path of using “out-of-pocket” riders for abortion coverage.

Those on Capitol Hill who think they can hoodwink us with a “board of medical experts” should understand that many of us Catholics who voted for Democratic congressional candidates and for Barack Obama did so because we believed the party as a whole was becoming more sensitive to our concern that, despite the clear wording of the text, Roe has created an “abortion-on-demand” legal regime in this country. We responded to candidate Obama’s call for a reduction in the abortion rate through non-coercive policies of support for women facing crisis pregnancies. We cheered, and some of us cried, when pro-life Sen. Bob Casey, unlike his father, was permitted to address the Democratic National Convention. All that good will goes out the window if the Congress and the White House try to skate around the Hyde Amendment. It would be a cruel irony if, having supported efforts to achieve universal health insurance together since the 1940s, the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church would be prevented from working together at this moment because pro-choice lobbyists want to use health care reform as a vehicle for expanding abortion.


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