Abortion issue wedges itself into health care debate

Some groups want health care to match Missouri abortion law
Sunday, November 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:18 a.m. CDT, Sunday, November 1, 2009

COLUMBIA — The discourse on health care reform has included a sidebar debate over abortion, and some state groups are calling for the legislation to mirror abortion laws in Missouri and a handful of other states.

The Missouri Catholic Conference is asking for national measures to go further than some amendments have proposed. Although many measures have called for specific language in health bills that would assure no federal funding would go to abortions, abortion-rights opponents also support making a national standard out of a Missouri law that prohibits abortions paid for through private insurance. The Missouri Catholic Conference supports reforming health care but not unless these amendments are included.

"You step over the line as far as making health care reform become something that promotes abortion when you allow tax dollars to be used," said Mike Hoey, interim director for the Missouri Catholic Conference. "Abortion is not health care reform, and taxpayer-funded abortion should not be put in health care legislation."

The debate over language regarding abortion in health care legislation has picked up over the last three weeks, and the opposition is creating a strong faction. About 40 House Democrats and about 100 House Republicans signed a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging her to bring to a vote the issue of individual health care subsidies going toward abortion.

Abortion rights opponents seek to amend both House and Senate health care bills to specifically include language that would prohibit any federal funding of abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger. Their aim is to essentially include this language from the Hyde Amendment, which went into effect in 1976.

"As a pro-life member of Congress, I cannot support a measure that allows for federal funding for abortion services," Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said in an e-mail statement.

But the White House and many pro-abortion rights Democrats have sidestepped the issue, simply saying it shouldn't be an issue in the first place.

"There are already laws in place that prohibit funding, and this (proposed) law doesn't do anything to change that," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., echoing a sentiment many Democrats have used to dismiss the debate.

Not only do abortion rights opponents want the language of the Hyde Amendment transplanted into this new legislation, but some of the Missouri groups would also like to see restrictions on what can be achieved through private health insurance. Missouri law states that abortion may not be covered through private health insurance plans without a separate rider — which requires someone to pay extra to include abortion under their coverage — and that's exactly the standard abortion-rights opponents seek to extend nationwide.

"Whether it's taxes or a premium, it still comes from us and goes into funding abortion," said Patricia Skain, director of Missouri Right to Life, who added that her organization wouldn't have a position on health care legislation if it weren't for the abortion debate.

But pro-abortion rights groups in Missouri and nationally have responded to the push for abortion-related amendments. While national groups have said they're disappointed with the lack of progress in the health care legislation, Missouri abortion-rights supporters' message is clear: Don't follow our state's lead.

"I think it's a shame that a very necessary reform bill has been sidetracked into a lot of anti-choice rhetoric based on things that aren't just true," said Pamela Sumners, executive director for Naral Pro-Choice Missouri. "That's not what this bill is about. We think women who have coverage for abortion should still have that."

The pro-abortion rights groups say Missouri has some of the most restrictive reproductive laws in the country, and they wouldn't want to see it translate to the national level. A 2006 project by the Center for Reproductive Rights ranked Missouri No. 37 in regard to its standard of acceptable reproductive laws. In the rankings, Missouri was penalized for what the project called barriers to abortion. These include Missouri laws that require counseling and a waiting period before an abortion, as well as parental involvement for minors.

Hoey said the debate over abortion in health care should assure that those funding restrictions are carried over nationally, so taxpayers who oppose abortion don't have their money potentially going to fund something they're "fundamentally against."

"Everybody supports something they'd rather not through their tax dollars," Sumners said, responding to Hoey's argument. "I'd rather not have my tax dollars used to start weird wars in Iraq."

Peter Altschul is a Columbia resident who spent a year forming dialogue groups across the country for for activists on both sides of the issue to find common ground. He spoke at Carpe Diem last week about his work with these groups and said in a later interview that the debate over abortion in the health bill sometimes mirrors the opposing viewpoints with which he's worked.

He said that through his dialogue groups, pro- and anti-abortion rights groups could find common ground in four main areas: encouraging adoption, preventing teenage pregnancy, improving care for women with crisis pregnancies and cutting back on "over-the-top" language. He said it might help to turn the national focus to those areas instead of debating whether abortion would be covered under a health plan.

Even so, he said bringing abortion into the health care debate could be a product of general opposition to the legislation.

"I think for the opponents of health care reform, abortion is a red herring," Altschul said. "There are people in the pro-life community who genuinely think this issue matters, and there are people who dislike the whole concept of the health care plan and are using it as a wedge."

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vicky weaver November 1, 2009 | 8:20 a.m.

Can you be pregant with a dead fetus?The heart beat stopped at 10 weeks. What about if you live 30 miles away from health care and are carrying a dead fetus, and face every moment frighten, as to when your body will miscarry the pregnacy and will you bleed to death alone and unable to get to a doctor. I was not a kid afraid to tell my parents, I was 32 years old. That is the reason I had an abortion at a clinic. I did not have health insurance to go into a hospital. My doctor recommended the clinic because it was a less expensive option. Now you from the religious right tell me what I should have done. And please research your information before you give me advice. Yes I prayed about it first. And I called everywhere for financial help. And then I had a procedure at a clinic and it was called an abortion.

(Report Comment)
vicky weaver November 1, 2009 | 8:53 a.m.

I did not mean for my name to be printed, but if it was that is alright because I have nothing to hide. I later went to work at the clinic were I had an abortion. The staff was so kind to me during my experence. And I must tell you, with out breaking any confidences there are many reason a women choses to seek an aboriton. Not every fetus is like the ones on the anti-abortion posters. They are not going to all be white, blue-eyed healty babies concieved in love and welcomed into an adoptive home. Many, many times there are health reasons as to why a women choses abortion.A patient that has been diagnosed with cancer and can not begin chemo treatment and surgery while she is pregnant, she is 40 and has children at home that need her to stay alive for them. or a pregnancy where the fetus has a sever neurotube defect and does not develop a brain, or another fetus that has no kidneys and will die soon after it is outside the womb.Or how about the women who finds herself pregnant and living on the street where she does not have good nutrition or has been using drugs or drinking heavily. She then realizes she must take responsibility for this child and she chooses abortion rather than bring an unhealthy child into her world of misery. Maybe God takes care of these unfortunate cases by providing medical persons the knowledge, drugs and equipment to end the pregnancy. Yes there are selfish women who use the excuse that they just can't afford a child, but they probably would not be good mothers and a child without a loving mother gets born into another world of misery and usually ends up it the foster care system and the prison system. A child never gets over not being wanted by it's mother. Yes God can solve all problems if you believe, but many people don't.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 1, 2009 | 3:33 p.m.

Regarding your first post and what I surmise:
Don't know what they billed it as or what "they" called it.
Based on what my "gut" tells me, sounds to me like you had a D&C.

("As you read these stories, remember that abortion is an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year. There exists a financial incentive to persuade women to abort, and to downplay the risks of abortion. They advertise messages saying it is safe, a quick fix, and that your baby is just a blob of flesh or bunch of cells. It is not safe, there are complications - sometimes for a lifetime, and the baby is a baby, that actually knows its mother by her voice, feels protected by its mother, shows displeasure in its facial expressions when you eat something bitter, and feels pain at just 18 weeks.")

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox November 2, 2009 | 5:48 a.m.

As far as I'm concerned this has nothing to do with abortion, but everything to do with the fact that there is no "federal money" it's our money. And it's completely unfair for the government to take my money, force me to spend it on health care then define what I can and can't have covered.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 2, 2009 | 10:50 a.m.

@Eric Cox:
You are correct, Eric Cox.
This has nothing to do with abortion.
This has to do with Marxism.

(Report Comment)
Ward Young November 2, 2009 | 11:33 a.m.

Vicky, as is usually the case, the other comments here are by men who will never have to confront these realities. There are lots of men who want to decide what's good for women (from Henry Hyde on down) is a cultural, religious goal for them....they are not the ones faced with the life or death crisis....they are not the ones who have to care for the children....they are not the ones who bear the physical risks....just be aware, in the debate, which side is dominated by men who just get to sit back and watch as women struggle with often heart wrenching decisions.....

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 2, 2009 | 12:28 p.m.

@Ward Young:
("Kathy Forck reads Monday outside Planned Parenthood of Mid-Missouri at 711 N. Providence Road. Forck is among some 200 volunteers engaged in a 40-day vigil praying for an end to abortion.")

Plus almost 200 comments from local residents.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox November 2, 2009 | 7:34 p.m.

ray shapiro,

What? Wow.

First of all I can't even find a communist newspaper from Australia called The Tribune. Secondly I can't find any mention of the article “Human Life and Fetal Images,” outside from a few dozen extremist sites that have effectively learned how to use cut and paste. I was able to find Rebecca Albury whom is part of the Pro-Life movement in Australia. I'm not sure how much stock I'd put into an article from a pro-lifer who is trying to tie two perceived evils together.

I will now point out how ironic that you use Marxism (however far reaching and ridiculous) since what you are proposing is that pregnant women become property of the state. Although I do understand the average conservative whack-job is completely obsessed with socialism/Marxism right now.

Which is my point, I don't want some crazy superstitious Luddites to be able decide what is and isn't proper medical procedure for me, that is between me and my doctor. I may not be facing this issue personally, but this unreasonable intrusion from extremist into other peoples medical needs, must be stopped. My concern is non-medical people enacting legislation pertaining to what is and isn't acceptable medical practice based on a 2000 year old superstition.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 2, 2009 | 9:32 p.m.

@Eric Cox:
Format Journal/Newspaper
Uniform Title Tribune (Communist Party of Australia. Central Committee)
Description Sydney, N.S.W. : Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia, 1939-1991.")

-Believe what you want.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox November 3, 2009 | 5:37 a.m.

ray shapiro,

Yeah I had found that, all that tells me is there was a communist paper in Australia called The Tribune, but that it's hasn't been published for almost 20 years. And there is no mention of the article.

It is also ironic (at least from my perspective) that you seem to be using the same arguments about socialist/communist that they use about you. The claim your extremist site makes is - “The inhumanity of communism resides in this arbitrary assessment of human life," Well the argument that the "arbitrary assessment of human life" is no stranger to Christians, history is full of such examples with The Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials being some of the more well known, that argument is pretty well know and used by atheists/agnostics.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 3, 2009 | 2:10 p.m.

Eric Cox:
While religions go through reformations, my concern is that
Marxist philosophies might impact our governmental policies and attitudes under the guise of some newer, more "politically correct" labels, just to get votes and secure power, policy and influence over the populace.

(Report Comment)

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