Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Cost Variable

I am not the first to say this, but.... whenever you're tempted to make an analogy to Adolph Hitler or Nazism: stop. Politicians, pundits, bloggers, and columnists really ought to avoid suggesting actions or motives are comparable to the World War II genocidal machine. They are not, and and the analogy has the primary effect of trivializing the Holocaust, a uniquely horrifying historical event.

Ken Connor, chairman of the Center for a Just Society, has no such compunction. He has written a fairly widely circulated opinion piece entitled "The Economics of Abortion"- not The Primacy of Life, Life As a Priority, or Stupak defended.

Defending the effort of Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI), whose has been attempting to to insert (further) anti-abortion language into the health care bill, Connor makes that odious comparison, arguing

The perverted ethics that justified Hitler’s “Final Solution” are the same as those that allow today’s liberated woman to celebrate her “right” to chemically or mechanically eliminate the parasitical “condition” of pregnancy.

Striving to convince readers that opposition to restricting (beyond the Hyde Amendment) abortion rights is based upon a cold, insensitive, economic calculation, Connor disingenuously describes this as Stupak's "colleagues' calculated position on abortion."

If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing. . . . Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue – come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.

It's highly unlikely that has been more than an ancillary argument put forth by pro-choice members of Congress, although one can hardly blame Stupak for implying otherwise ("money is their hang-up") and hoping that naive activists repeat it. Virtually all pro-choice sentiment throughout society- especially among politicians- is based on the idea that prohibiting abortion is an infringement on the rights of women to control their own body.

Bart Stupak has fought for anti-abortion language in the health care reform bill that would go beyond the Nelson language in the Senate bill, which may be voted on later today. (Assuming Stupak is unsuccessful, the Nelson amendment will remain in the legislation.) It is actually the pro-life contingent which would impose its ideology and objectives upon market forces and use the power of the purse to deter abortion. As Jodi Jacobson explained in late December, the Nelson language

legislates a "market farce," by prohibiting insurance companies from calculating or taking into account when deciding on the level of premiums needed the cost savings from abortion care as against maternity care.

As one expert put it:

This is a tax on women and a fraud perpetrated on the country. By ignoring the cost-savings, it unfairly presents abortion coverage as far more expensive than it actually is. This is no different than focusing on the harms caused by cutting someone with a scalpel while ignoring any benefits from surgery.

There's a reason why 87% of private plans offer abortion coverage. It makes little sense to deny this coverage to women who want to terminate a pregnancy - after all, the costs of prenatal care and childbirth are far higher in almost every case. [But under the Nelson language], insurers can only take into account costs but not savings, which means that the fee for the rider will be artificially high [and] of course the insurance companies will keep the windfall.

[The cost issue] is not why I support reproductive rights but that's just how it is. Pro-lifers don't like the fact that a market-based solution, so intrinsic to many of their other arguments, does not lead to the outcome they want, so they lie about the numbers. And it is so typical of pro-life arguments; a pathological need to hide the truth from people and use fake numbers to make their point. There is absolutely no justification for not including cost savings in the calculation except that the reality of the situation is unsavory to pro-lifers.

Under the Nelson language, then:
Women now get a Hobson's choice. They can live in a state that completely opts out of coverage, meaning that coverage will essentially be totally unavailable. Or they can live a state that provides some limited coverage, but only if they pay an inflated and unreal price through additional bureaucratic coverage. The manager's amendment is a double barrier in the way of women's access to healthcare.


Manipulation of market forces and consideration of economic factors thus has become a weapon in the arsenal of the anti-abortion rights forces. Characterization of one's position as "pro-life" may be accurate, but nonetheless (and perhaps intentionally) obscures the effort to make that reproductive choice cost-prohibitive. If consideration of money is a shameless, inhumane variable in setting abortion policy, perhaps the Congressional pro-life advocates need to look in the mirror and consider their own priorities.

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