03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Will Stupak Abort Health Reform?

Let me begin by making it very clear that I value all life--potential or fully realized--but that I am also pro-choice. How can this be? Well, unlike my Republican friends who are pro-life and pro-death penalty and my Democratic friends who are pro-choice and anti-death penalty, I fancy myself a bit more rationally consistent: I am pro-life and anti-death penalty. But wait a minute, how can I be both pro-life and pro-choice? Simple. My personal beliefs favor a pro-life position, but I have no desire to tell others what they can or cannot do, making me pro-choice in political practice. Besides, I have no misgivings about the fact that abortions--quite unsafe abortions--took place even when the procedure was illegal. So in the politico-legal realm I choose what I see as the lesser of two evils. Although reducing the need for abortions would be my first priority. There, now that that's out of the way, I can get to the real issue.

In the wake of the Stupak amendment's passage, which would prohibit insurers from offering abortion as a covered benefit, pro-choice groups are up in arms, which isn't good since they tend to be strong Democrats, but it really has me asking why. After all, it's not like the amendment denies a woman the right to choose. In most cases, an abortion only costs $300 to $400. That's not the type of medical expense that bankrupts a person. I will grant that prohibiting insurance from paying for it might introduce financial barriers that effectively limit choice in some circumstances, but I think that's an entirely different issue.

Indeed, for many, it's an issue of abortion services being considered outside the realm of "ordinary" health care. But I don't know that that's such a strange notion. After all, plenty of people get abortions and plenty of people get plastic surgery. Both are medical procedures. Both are sometimes necessary and other times much more elective. Should all cosmetic surgery be covered? If not, then I think it's okay to exclude abortion coverage unless the mother's life is at risk (or in cases of rape or incest, both of which Stupak also allows). In other cases, if you can afford it on your own, go ahead. Nothing's stopping you.

Besides, only 13% of abortions are covered by insurance now anyway (though this figure is being debated by the very people who originally issued it), most of which would remain covered under the Stupak amendment. Is it worth denying coverage for tens of millions of Americans so that a small percentage of women continue to have access to insurer-funded abortions? Absolutely not. What concerns me the most is that such a hotly contested political issue has wedged its way into the debate and threatens to destroy the party unity that is essential to getting reformed through Congress. I'd much rather see reform passed, and the abortion issue brought up after the fact. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the Senate does and what happens in conference. Does the fun never end?

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