Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Keep Abortion Funding Banned From Health Reform

I will come right out and say it. No federal funding for abortion procedures should be stipulated in the healthcare legislation now being deliberated in Congress. It pains me to say that because on principle I am pro-choice. The decision should rest with the doctor and the woman, the father, perhaps the pastor and definitely not the government.

I realize this position is contradictory because it penalizes women who cannot afford abortion. Basically, I'm saying let's keep the status quo under the guidelines of Roe vs. Wade and the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, that explicitly prevents the federal government from using tax dollars to fund abortion through Medicaid.

Abortion is the most emotional among the numerous obstacles facing Congress in its struggle to pass healthcare reform. The House bill and the Senate drafts both include a government option or at minimum a co-op for health insurance coverage. This is where it gets murky, leading many pro-life legislators to insist provisions of The Hyde Amendment be written into the new legislation.

"Unless you can specifically exclude abortion, it will be part of any federalized healthcare system," said Charmaine Yoest, executive director of Americans United for Life.

Nineteen of the 52 conservative "Blue Dog" House Democrats threaten to scuttle the entire healthcare reform effort unless their demands outlying federal funding for abortion procedures are met. Republicans are using the abortion issue to drive a wedge between the Democrats and the Obama administration.

The White House is trying to remain neutral. "I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings and not get distracted by the abortion debate," President Obama said in an interview with CBS News last week.

When asked about abortion prohibitions in the bill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said last week that "a benefit package is better left to experts in the medical field to determine how best and what procedures to cover."

I'm trying to be pragmatic. It would be a crime if the entire healthcare reform package is killed because of the abortion issue. It would change nothing if the liberal Democrats went along with the Blue Dogs and possibly even win support of a few moderate Republican senators.

Legislation of this sort never pleases everyone. And for those pregnant women on Medicaid, their options would be the same as they have been for the past 33 years. It isn't fair to them. Never has been. But, politics and reality don't always go hand in hand.

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