Monday, January 23, 2012





Merely Abortion Politics


Ron Santorum has not been the worst Republican running for his party's presidential nomination and, at least as long as Newt Gingrich is around, will not be.      He did for example, offer up the finest comment at the first South Carolina (Myrtle Beach) debate, stating

This is Martin Luther King Day.     This is a huge deal in the African-American community, because we have very high rates of incarceration, disproportionately high rates, particularly with drug crimes, in the African-American community.

The bill I voted on was the Martin Luther King Voting Rights bill.      And this was a provision that said, particularly targeted African-Americans.     And I voted to allow- to allow them to have their voting rights back once they completed their sentence.


Less impressive than Santorum's singular reference to Martin Luther King Day (though he probably knew it would gain him applause from neither GOP activists nor primary voters) was Santorum's actual position on the issue.       Once felons have "done their time," completed their sentence, states should allow them to vote, which might give them a sense of having a small stake in the functioning of society- and is simply a matter of fairness.    The courage, in an age of vigorous Republican efforts at voter suppression (aimed at blacks most of all) to support voting rights for felons who have completed their sentence, should not be underestimated.        Most of those affected aren't black- but as Republican audiences know (and Santorum acknowledged), a disproportionate number are.

However,  the former Pennsylvania senator and Virginia resident probably would be offended if he weren't judged most of all on his pro-life credentials.       Accordingly, in a column conveniently published in The Wall Street Journal on the Christian day of worship, Santorum emphasizes "my opponents whisper that they are pro-life, but I fight the battle in the trenches and will continue to do so."

That is demonstrably true in the case of his primary primary opponents, Gingrich and Mitt Romney.     (Ron Paul whispers louder but as the states-rights candidate, wants abortion policy left to the states.)      But Santorum's accuracy otherwise wanes, notably when he claims President Obama

supported federal funds for abortion through ObamaCare and told Catholic Charities that there was no room in the inn if they wanted to help women abused by sex traffickers and be pro-life at the same time.

Except in rare instances, no*; and no (although "no room in the inn" is a nice, if obvious, touch).

Opinions differ as to whether the Affordable Care Act authorizes "federal funds for abortion." Unfortunately, those on Santorum's side are mostly wrong.  

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a faithful supporter of the anti-abortion cause, maintains

(T)he Senate bill allows elective abortions to be offered through the newly-created individual state health insurance exchanges and multi-state health plans administered by the Office of Personnel Managment (OPM), and through federally-subsidized plans in already-existing community health centers.

Anyone who doesn't earn enough money would qualify for a federal subsidy to help pay for their health plan in the state exchanges, including plans offering elective abortion coverage.

(U)nder this proposal, community health centers would receive a dedicated stream of money outside the annual congressional process to fund the government which is where the Hyde prohibition is maintained.    So that means that for the first time federal money could be used to fund abortion at a community health center.

Admittedly, the Act does not preclude abortions to be offered through the individual state health insurance exchanges and multi-state health plans.       But they cannot be aided, directly or indirectly, by government funds.       Timothy S. Jost of the Washington and Lee University School of Law explains

The Senate bill, like the House bill, prohibits the use of federal premium subsidies to pay for abortions that are not covered by Medicaid (that is, cases of rape and incest or of physical threat to the life of the mother); provides that the government cannot require health plans to cover abortion; prohibits health plans and federal agencies or state and local governments receiving federal funds from discriminating against providers because of their unwillingness to provide for, pay for, provide coverage for or refer for abortion; and leaves in place all state laws regulating abortion and federal law regarding conscience protection or willingness to provide abortion.

Moreover, the Act requires those plans which provide coverage to collect a separate premium, which must be held in a separate, strictly-regulated account.      *In pre-existing condition plans, whether run by the state, or the federal, government, no public funds can be used for any abortion not necessitated by rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother.

Community health centers now will receive additional funding, through a new Community Health Center Fund.       The ACA does not change the centers' policy on funding of abortions, which have been subsidized only in the aforementioned instances in which pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or poses a threat to the life of the mother.

Last year, according to ABC News, the Department of Health and Human Services changed its program to combat sex trafficking from a contract to a competitive grant.     It also added a clause "about giving strong preference to applicants that provide victims with comprehensive case management services" including information on, and referrals to, 'family planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care."

HHS officials appear determined to arm such victims with as much information as possible about their options rather than leaving them in the figurative dark; their opponents, not so much.      The critics, moreover, choose to slander the Obama Administration additionally with being anti-Catholic, including Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) charging "If we were to have a litmus test that Catholics need not apply...."    

Catholic groups, primarily Catholic Charities and the Conference of Bishops, have received approximately $100 million more in grants from Obama's HHS than they did in the last three years of the Bush Administration.      But that inconvenient fact will not deter Santorum nor anti-abortion activist Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has accused the Department of "an unconscionable abuse of power."

Notwithstanding Santorum's charge that Catholic Charities "cannot help women abused by traffickers and be pro-life at the same time," the organization can help women abused by traffickers and be pro-life.    It even can help the women, be pro-life, and receive federal funds; it simply cannot help the women, be pro-life, and play by a different set of rules from others receiving a subsidy.     If Rick Santorum does not recognize that, he ought to identify the article and section of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing a right to a government subsidy.





1 comment:

Farouk said...

Abortion is a State issue, not a Federal issue. Orrin Hatch, after 36 years has become a Political animal. Nobody can be sure what he really believes anymore- he's trying to maintain his office and position. This is how he feels about the Internet:
http://www.dethronehatch.com/orrin-hatch-is-no-friend-of-the-internet/

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