The radical right wing Tea Party Republicans who claim to be motivated by a desire to see less government at all levels have just passed another of their moral imposition laws: HR 358 the self-styled Protect Life Act. The proposed law would prohibit women from buying health insurance plans through the new Health Care Act if those plans cover abortion procedures even when women use their own money, not government funds, to pay for the premiums. It would also allow hospitals to deny abortion procedures to women who face life threatening conditions. I find it incomprehensible that these so called less government folks would support government prohibiting people from buying a type of insurance. The underpinning of their argument against the Health Care Act is that it requires people to have insurance. Well if you can prohibit people from buying a type of insurance you can require them to have a type of insurance. I also find it truly cruel to deny women a procedure at a hospital that a doctor thinks is necessary to save their life. Evidently the Protect Life Act is about protecting only the life of the unborn fetus not the life of the mother.
Abortion is one of those moral issues that divides the body politic along religious lines. It is probably the most divisive issue to face our nation since slavery tore us apart one hundred fifty years ago. By the early decades of the twentieth century many states had outlawed abortion procedures. Like prohibition of liquor it didn’t mean that no abortions occurred. Women found a way to have abortions in back alleys and on kitchen tables performed by unlicensed and untrained individuals who used coat hangers instead of surgical instruments. When in the 1960's movements for civil rights for blacks and increased opportunities for young people and equality for women spread throughout the nation there became a campaign to make abortion a procedure that women could have done safely by trained doctors. Some states, such as New York replaced their abortion ban with an allowance of abortion whenever a women and their doctor wanted to perform one (this was denominated abortion on demand)
The Supreme Court of the United States eventually ruled that the ninth amendment to the Constitution contained within its meanings a right to privacy which then through the fourteenth amendment was applicable to state governments as well. With this decision, Roe v. Wade, abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy became legal in this country. A reaction to this ruling then occurred and grew in intensity as many Roman Catholics; and, eventually orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Protestants found strong religious objection to allowing abortions which they considered murder since they considered that life began at conception. Women saw the anti abortion movement as an effort to restrict their control of their own bodies and reproductive choices.
With abortion legalized by the Supreme Court, opponents sought ways to restrict it. The question of minors’ rights to abortions was raised. Self styled Pro-Life forces argued that minors should need parental consent. Pro-Choicers argued that most minors who sought abortions were often those who couldn’t talk to their parents either out of fear, abuse or shame; and they offered alternative ways for consent to be given, e.g. a judge. So Pro Life forces countered with parental notification which would require parents to be notified when their daughter was going to have an abortion in cases where someone else gave consent or no consent was required.
There were efforts to restrict abortion procedures to the first trimester and many states adopted these. With the election of the anti-spending, anti-deficit, less gov’t is good Tea Party radical Republicans in 2010 dozens of new types of restrictions have been proposed. In one state by regulation of facilities they have successfully closed the only three abortion procedure providers in the state. In other states there has been renewed efforts to require parental consent, mandate pre abortion procedure waiting periods, require women to view videos of abortions before they undergo the procedure and now this draconian and truly offensive federal proposal that says you can’t have insurance that pays for abortion even if you pay for the insurance - so much for rights or capitalism.
The newest plan to ban abortion procedures is the so called Personhood Amendment. In Mississippi in this Nov. election it is on the ballot. It would amend theat state’s constitution to wit: “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”. Effectively such an amendment could bar not only abortions but day after pills, and possibly even other methods of contraception. Five other states are considering such amendments and waiting for the Mississippi referendum (the amendment is expected to pass there).
Moral issues that divide people along religious lines should not be the basis of governmental legislation. The role of government should be to enable everyone to practice their own religious beliefs and live by their own moral codes as long as they don’t impose them on anyone else or do damage to anyone else. To say that the future life of an unborn fetus is more sacrosanct that the life of the mother is not the province of government. To decide when a health procedure is needed to save life should not be the role of government -- interestingly these same radical Republican types make much of what they incorrectly call death panels and insist that the Affordable Health Care Act would allow government to decide who could live or die.
It is difficult if not impossible to compromise on moral issues. In the years I have spent in public and political life I have seen little support from elected officials for compromise proposals on the matter of abortion. When pro-choicers offer alternatives to abortion ideas such as increased funding for adoptions, more education and support for contraception the pro-life folks say no. They fail to understand that allowing the government to bar any abortions under any circumstances means that government can require abortions. They fail to comprehend that respect for life must also include helping children as they struggle through infancy and adolescence - as they seek education and later a job.
The role of government should be to enhance the life of all; we as a society must care about how life is lived, and that pursuit of happiness that our Declaration of Independence linked to the rights to life and liberty. Today is the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty by then President Grover Cleveland. That statue has come to symbolize the right to liberty to pursue a full, productive and prosperous life not just to be born.
28 October, 2011