Thursday, October 01, 2009

Abortion Howlers from the Times

SWNID doesn't blog much on abortion. The issues are clear enough, we think, in most public discourse on the subject, and the body politic is predictably and perhaps permanently divided on the issue's fundamentals as a consequence of what we take as permanent divisions in ideology.

But today we make an exception, not so much to address the abortion question ethically or even politically as to address the insufferable nonsense that comes from too many opinion pages in too many failing organs of the old media. Specifically, we refer to the Gray Lady, New York's famous broadsheet that continues to pose as our Paper of Record.

The Times's opinionists today offer reasons why abortion coverage ought to be included in any federal healthcare reform. This assertion begs many questions that we'd like to address, but we'll confine ourselves to quoting some choice sentences from the Times and offering acerbic responses.

The Times: "Critics of pending health care reforms claim they want to ensure that the government does not thrust itself between patients and doctors to dictate what medical procedures can be performed. Yet many are trying to do just that when it comes to one legal and medically valid service: abortion."

SWNID: There's so much to criticize in "pending health care reforms," and there are so many people doing the criticizing that characterizing "critics" monolithically is as silly as characterizing a particular gender, racial or ethnic group monolithically, just less offensive. Calling abortion "medically valid" is simply to ignore the fact that the Republic has been riven by dissent on this issue for over a generation. Whatever "medically valid" means (it's not a phrase one expects to hear in a consult with one's personal physician, for example), it doesn't include, "having the moral approval of a substantial majority of voters."

The Times: "In a rational system of medical care, there would be virtually no restrictions on financing abortions. But abortion is not a rational issue."

SWNID: Since you didn't define "medically valid," you also didn't have to define "rational." Brush aside well considered ethical arguments, O Great Editorial Writers, because no one in your circle of friends, who define "rationality" for the rest of humanity, objects morally to abortion on demand. If by "not rational" you mean "religious," we'll let the bigoted canard pass while merely noting that not all who object to abortion morally do so for religious reasons and many religious people make purely nonreligious arguments for its immorality.

But let's take this further. Is it not "rational" in a democratic republic to restrict public expenditures on things that a substantial portion of the public believes to be immoral? Is it not rational to expect that only those who believe that abortion is morally acceptable ought to pay for abortions? By contrast, is it indeed "rational" for a democratically elected representative government to force citizens to subsidize something that they believe to be immoral?

The Times: "These [existing] restrictions [on federal funding for abortions], which constitute an improper government intrusion into Americans’ private lives, apply to the joint federal-state Medicaid program, the health insurance exchange that covers federal government employees, and health programs for military personnel, American Indians and women in prison, among others. This approach disproportionately harms poor women. . . ."

SWNID: How is it an intrusion on my private life if the federal government doesn't pay for something that I want or even need? By contrast, how is it not an intrusion on my liberty if the government taxes the public to pay for something that much of the public believes is not just unwise but immoral? And have y'all not paid attention to the fact that the "disproportionately harms poor women" trope has become a cliche once laughable and now tired to the point of morbidity? Maybe that newsflash hasn't made its way to the folks with whom you share cocktails.

But to take a step further, what is to prevent you and your buddies from simply raising money for Planned Parenthood to fill the gap in coverage? The pro-life side isn't asking for Uncle Sugar to fund their pregnancy care centers that encourage women to carry their babies to term and provide for their nurture. Have yourselves a telethon or something! Ask the "super rich" for help!

The Times: "[It is a reasonable compromise to offer that h]ealth plans could provide abortion coverage provided they used only the premium money and co-payments contributed by beneficiaries and kept that money segregated from the subsidy. In every state, there would have to be at least one plan that covers abortions and one that does not."

SWNID: Money is fungible. You can't put two dollars in a box, mark one "do not spend on abortion," use the other for abortion, and say to the person who gave you the marked dollar, "We didn't spend your dollar for abortion." What you did was spend half of each dollar for abortion, because if you hadn't spent any money on abortion, you'd have two dollars to spend on something else. Once you've taken my money and added it to someone else's money, you can only make sure that my money doesn't get mixed up with others' by giving me my money back. Suggestion: if this concept is not clear to you, research the concept of fungibility in any respectable work on finance or accounting.

Further, the issue is less a matter of who receives coverage as who provides it. Certainly some folk who object to abortion would prefer not to have a plan that covers it, but if they had such coverage, financed from the federal coffers, they would hardly be forced to use it. The issue is whether someone who objects morally to abortion ought to be forced to pay for someone else's abortion. Offering a choice of plans simply panders; it doesn't address the problem.

The Times: "This compromise is still far more restrictive than the rules for other tax-subsidy programs. The subsidy for employees’ contributions to their health coverage at work, for example, can be used to buy insurance that covers abortion. Roughly half of the employer-provided policies cover the procedure. Nor are there any restrictions on paying for abortions with the tax-favored health savings accounts so beloved by conservatives."

SWNID: Now we get down to what really bugs us about you guys (gender inclusive usage). You think that letting people keep their money is the same as giving them someone else's money. That's true only if everything belongs to the government and so what we're allowed to keep is a privilege granted that gives others the right to decide what I do with what I keep. If I have a health savings account (which I don't have, thanks to irrational restrictions on such things), the fact that the money in that account is not subject to income taxes doesn't make it the government's money. The money is mine, and with my vote I'm supposed to have a say-so in how it's spent even after you tax it away. But until you tax it, it's mine to use as I please. Same goes for others. It's their business how they spend. Furthermore, in the Constitution there are supposed to be restrictions on what you can and can't spend money on with or without a vote, though such distinctions have been frittered away over time.

But get the point: my money hasn't been spent when my neighbor uses her HSA for an abortion. I'd prefer that she didn't, and I don't especially like the fact that she gets a tax break on that expenditure, but it's a very different matter than taxing me to pay for her abortion.

The Times: "Some want to require women to buy an extra insurance 'rider' if they want abortion coverage, an unworkable approach given that almost no one expects to need an abortion, few women would buy the rider and, therefore, few insurance companies would even offer it."

SWNID: OK, this bugs us even more: "almost no one expects to need an abortion." This is more than the failure of the government to fund sex education classes, right? Here's the deal: if you are a woman and have intercourse, even with contraceptive measures, you may get pregnant. Anyone who has sex and is willing to get an abortion should expect to need one, to the same degree that anyone who has a house should expect to need fire insurance. Pregnancy is much less random than fire, of course.

And if no insurance company will provide such coverage, what's to keep you and your buddies once again from forming mutual (i.e., not-for-profit) companies that will provide it with subsidies from donors to keep rates low?

Of course, you didn't say "no insurance company." You said "few." So? It only takes one, and if you're worried about competition, raise money to fund two mutual companies to do the dirty deed.

We hate to rant, but you're treating your readers as if they're stupid. To be charitable, we conclude that you live in the echo chamber that is the elite class of Manhattan Island. You don't know your own kind of stupid any more. But take a close look again at what you've written, Times opinionists, and please realize how awfully narrow and bigoted you appear to be to those of us outside your aristocratic clique.

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