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The Stupak Amendment: Opportunistic, but not Discriminatory

November 9, 2009

bart_stupak_official_109th_congress_photo Ezra Klein raises an important point about the Stupak amendment:

Rep. Bart Stupak’s amendment did not make abortion illegal. And it did not block the federal government from subsidizing abortion. All it did was block it from subsidizing abortion for poorer women.

Stupak’s amendment stated that the public option cannot provide abortion coverage, and that no insurer participating on the exchange can provide abortion coverage to anyone receiving subsidies. But . . . the biggest federal subsidy for private insurance coverage is untouched by Stupak’s amendment. It’s the $250 billion the government spends each year making employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free.

Prior to reading Klein’s post, it seemed to me that Democrats ought to save the abortion issue for another occasion. Now I see that the congressional showdown this weekend was inevitable. If a woman does indeed have the “right to choose,” then the Stupak amendment is discriminatory. On the other hand, if abortion involves the taking of an innocent life (I believe that it does), then no one, whether rich or poor, has a “right” to the procedure. From a policy standpoint, it is obviously incoherent to put in place an amendment that denies abortion subsidies to poor women, but not the affluent. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Stupak amendment is “as much about class as about choice,” as Klein asserts. What it means is that abortion foes have resorted to guerrilla war in the absence of any real hope of overturning Roe V. Wade.

The Stupak amendment was by all means opportunistic. Yet no one in the pro-life camp is arguing in favor of subsidized abortions for affluent women. That battle just happens to be much more difficult to win.

(As an aside, it is my firm belief that Democrats actually do far more to reduce abortions than Republicans through supporting generous welfare programs, guaranteed access to health care and education, and all the rest. Even were the Stupak amendment removed, I would continue to strongly support health care reform.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. ethifem permalink
    November 9, 2009 8:52 pm

    Hopefully, the fact that poorer women should now have more affordable access to birth control and other reproductive options will offset the fact that the public option will not cover a legal right that women who become pregnant have in this country.

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