Real Talk on Health Care and Abortion


What Theda Skocpol said:

“FEMINISTS” who are pushing on abortion-funding limits rather than supporting American women need to examine their consciences. NOW’s obsession over abortion is, in effect, betraying a long tradition of American women’s advocacy on behalf of the wellbeing of families and the poor. Poor women cannot now get publicly funded abortions, and middle class women will always get what they need. At issue now is a health reform that will extend critical resources to millions of ordinary women.

CATHOLIC PRO-LIFE DEMOCRATS also need to get a grip on core values. Do they — or the U.S. Catholic Bishops — really want to be responsible for scuttling access to health care for millions? Many deaths will be on their hands if they do. Scuttling reform over abortion will give the lie to “pro life” claims. Abortion funding is not directly available through public funds — it has not been for a long time, and it won’t be under this legislation. Congressman Stupak, one suspects, really wants to defeat comprehensive health reform; he was conspiring with Republican leaders in the last episode. Other Democrats should not follow Stupak. And responsible Catholic leaders should support the true “pro-life” cause here: expanded, affordable health care coverage for all Americans.

The majority of pro-life members of congress at least claim to believe that the overall health care bill is bad. But the Stupak bloc of legislators who were willing to vote for a version of the bill that included super-duper-duper strong restrictions on abortion but not one that merely includes super strong restrictions are really offering up a reductio version of the “life begins at conception and ends at birth” version of pro-life politics.


A study led by Heather Rosen, MD, MPH, research fellow in the Department of Plastic Surgery at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, found that uninsured children were over three times more likely to die from their trauma-related injuries than children who were commercially insured, after adjustment for other factors such as age, gender, race, injury severity and injury type in an analysis of data from the National Trauma Data Bank.

Then conversely from a feminist point of view, undue focus on the abortion-funding provisions is missing the forest for the trees. Not only will the bill give subsidized health insurance to currently uninsured poor women, but the requirement that insurance companies not charge women higher premiums than men will be a financial boon to middle class single women. As a matter of principle, discriminating against abortion services is indefensible. But in practice, the need to pay out of pocket for abortions is going to be far offset by other benefits women are getting.