A more reasonable view of abortion and healthcare legislation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Presumptuous title, isn’t it? Sure. It’s just that sometimes things seem so clear that I can’t help myself. We’re all watching the debate over healthcare legislation in the House and Senate. Don’t you ever find yourself asking, “Can healthcare reform really be this complicated?” No. The problem is Congress, its structure, the people who represent us and their particular style of politics. And they wonder why they’re held in such low esteem by the American people? On the other hand, we get what we vote for, don’t we? (The problem is also a President long on talk, but way too short on management. We elected a community organizer President of the United States. What were you expecting?)

To the issue of abortion… For the record, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I have no religious or other moral beliefs which contradict that point of view – but I understand that there are people who do, who believe that abortion is murder and do not want our tax dollars paying for it. I don’t agree with, but respect the argument they make. This is serious business we’re talking about. At present, however, it is “the law of the land,” generally, that having an abortion and performing abortions are not illegal acts. If people want to change that, they know how the system works and should work within that system to accomplish their objectives. Trying to make their point through the debate over healthcare legislation isn’t the time or place.

In the meantime, I’d like to make an analogy which will help the Congress get by the issue of medical coverage for abortions without making it a moral issue. It’s simple, and more than a matter of symantics. No one, I hope, is arguing that universal health insurance should cover elective surgery. Not for facelifts, breast implants, liposuction, hair implants, whatever, unless there is a compelling medical reason for those procedures. A woman loses a breast to cancer? Of course medical insurance should cover breast reconstruction. A person is disfigured in an accident? There’s no question that insurance should pay for his or her plastic surgery. But if a person wants a nose job just to improve his or her appearance? Don’t be ridiculous.

Well, the same logic should apply to abortions – as long as they’re legal, which they are. If a woman’s pregnancy is threatening her life, and an abortion is the course of treatment she and her physicians endorse, then insurance should cover it. But if that pregnancy, however undesirable or unwanted, is the result of consensual sex, because the couple failed to use adequate birth control? Then an abortion is an elective option – isn’t it? – which insurance shouldn’t cover.

My point is that Congress needs to make a simple rule. Insurance should cover 100% of our citizens, not just 94%. Whoops. I like that rule, but it’s not on point. The rule should be that insurance should cover all reasonable (and legal, of course) preventive and curative healthcare, but not elective procedures. Medically advised abortions will be covered. Elective abortions will not. If you want to argue “pro-life” versus “pro-choice,” if you want to argue that all abortion should be illegal, take it outside.

What about pregnancy as the result of rape? Admittedly, it’s a tougher call because the harder science medical reasons for an abortion may not be there. Nevertheless, the same rule should apply. If there are compelling mental wellness issues, insurance should cover the abortion. If not, it shouldn’t.

Tough stuff, to be sure, but healthcare legislation isn’t the place to argue the issue of abortion, and our representatives in the House and Senate, and President Obama, need to make that point clear and get on with the business at hand.


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