I felt the achievement Saturday when the House health care reform bill passed with bipartisan support. I was especially proud of Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao (R-La), who crossed that perilous, dubious isle separating the left and right to cast a vote that will save countless American lives.
Interestingly, Rep. Cao, a former Jesuit seminarian, said that he joined the Republican party because of its opposition to abortion, according to the AP. Abortion is a hot button issue of the Republican party during elections and it’s also their hook into the Christian community, which comprises a large portion of their base.
And yet, people who are anti-abortion should be pro-health care reform too, because passage of the health care reform bill could result in sharp reductions in abortions – and, surprisingly, not because of the Republicans. Because of a Democrat who adhered to the law.
The Hyde Amendment, which the House passed in 1976, forbade the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. Because of this amendment, a House or Senate health care reform bill that uses federal funds to pay for abortions is unlawful.
Knowledge of the Hyde Amendment led Rep. Bart Stupack (D-MI) to put forward his own amendment, which states that no funds authorized or appropriated by the House health care reform bill may be used to pay for “any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any plan that includes coverage of abortions,” except in cases of rape and incest, or if the health of the mother is in danger.
There is a loophole in the Stupak Amendment, which states that a woman may choose to purchase supplemental coverage for abortions, as long as no state or federal funds go toward that supplemental insurance. This idea is already in practice with Medicare for seniors. Seniors have government subsidized health insurance, and then they can also buy additional coverage through a private insurer.
There’s also a crafty idea within this loophole. If abortion is a procedure obtained in an emergency situation, why would a woman seek a supplemental insurance plan that covers abortion? An abortion can cost anywhere between $500 and $10,000 depending on the trimester, according to Feminist Women’s Health Center, so without private insurance, cost could be a limiting factor for many women in deciding to get an abortion.
Many are arguing that the amendment would greatly reduce abortion rates in America. Sen. Boxer (D-CA) has said she believes the amendment will fail in the Senate, and President Obama said this week that while he doesn’t want to sneak in funding for abortions, he does not want to effectively change the law. For both personal and political reasons, I hope that Democrats join with the moderates in the party and keep a form of this amendment in the Senate version of the health care reform bill.
As a born-again Christian, I believe that life begins at conception and that except in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother, abortion should be illegal. I also believe that it should be very easy to both adopt babies and to put them up for adoption, and society should provide much more support for pregnant women and mothers. Pregnancy shouldn’t be such a scary idea that it compels women to turn to an escape route like abortion.
Support for more anti-abortion ideas also seems to be growing, according to an October Pew Research Poll. In 2008, Pew found that 54 percent of those questioned believed that abortion should be legal in most cases. In 2009, the number dropped to 47 percent. In 2008, when asked whether abortion should be illegal in most cases, 40 percent responded affirmatively. In 2009, that number jumped to 45 percent.
I must mention that abortion rates are not as high as I thought. According to a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in July 2008, only about 2 percent of women ages 15-44 get an abortion. The institute also shows in a graph that the number of abortions has been dropping since 1981, when abortions peaked at around 3 percent.
However, as the abortion amendment pans out in the Senate, it’s important to remember that because of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, abortion can not be federally funded. Any bill produced that does not include a public option and does not include a type of the Stupak Amendment is not one I would count as a success. Public option health care is achievable and obligatory, but it should also be done in a legal fashion.