A high number of pro-life Democrats in the House were holding healthcare hostage until the eleventh hour of the healthcare bill's passage last weekend before the Speaker added the Stupak Amendment to the bill. Although the Hyde Amendment of 1976 already banned the use of federal funds for abortion, the Stupak Amendment takes the measure even further, preventing citizens from even qualifying for the private insurance plans at the so-called exchange from companies that cover abortions as part of their plans.
Analysts have already pointed out the disastrous consequences that such a measure can have on women. As insurance companies realize that they are disqualified from competing at the soon-to-be established health insurance exchange, they will drop abortion coverage just to get access to a large and new segment of the market. This can lead virtually all major insurance companies to drop abortion coverage in their plans. Others have also referred to the hypocrisy of Republicans who have shown the most outrage about the possibility of using federal funds for abortion, although they wouldn't vote for the healthcare bill anyway; Politico reported on Thursday that the government-funded insurance plan of the Republican members of Congress covers abortion.
But there is another major problematic issue at the heart of this amendment, and that is what its passage implies. The fact is the Supreme Court clearly established in the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that abortion within the first two trimesters of pregnancy was legal and solely the woman's decision to make. Ever since the court handed down the ruling, anti-choice activists have been fighting to reverse the decision and done what they could to elect candidates who share their views to public office.
The issue with the Stupak Amendment is that the same legislators who signed on with this Amendment do not apply the same standards to other laws of this country. Their reasoning for the amendment is that while everyone has the right to abortion, we cannot use citizens' tax money--some of which undoubtedly come from anti-choice tax-payers -- to fund a practice that they believe to be immoral. But do these legislators believe that citizens should generally have the right to decide what government policies their tax money goes to? What if someone has a moral objection to a war the U.S. is fighting abroad? Do these legislators think it would be ok for citizens to stop paying their taxes, or take out the portion that they believe will be spent on a war they do not agree with?
And what are these legislators' feelings about the shooting rampage at Fort Hood? All of these legislators believed that once one signs up with the military, they cannot pick and choose which wars and operations one is to engage in. But based on the reasoning from the Stupak Amendment, do these legislators believe Maj. Hassan should have had the right to leave the military because he had a moral objection to being forced to kill actual humans?
The problem is that anti-choice activists and politicians have been able to treat abortion -- a medical procedure that is not kind of legal, but absolutely legal and as legitimate as any other legal medical operation -- as if it belongs to a different class of laws. This is the same faulty reasoning that they also use in support of the so-called "Right of Conscience" view, allowing medical practitioners to refuse to participate in any procedure that they deem immoral.
But the fact is these anti-choice activists will really be successful as long as they are even able to drag the rest of us into debates about when a fetus becomes a human. The reality is as long as the law is concerned, this debate has been over for thirty-six years. If they wish to try to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is their prerogative. But in the meantime, politicians' personal beliefs on abortion are absolutely irrelevant. It is time to treat the legality of abortion with the same strength that we treat all of our other laws.