Friday, March 26, 2010

Thinking clearly about abortion and health care

After withholding their support for the health care overhaul recently passed, Rep. Bart Stupak and some other pro-life Democrats agreed at the last minute to support the bill -- even though it still contained provisions that will significantly expand abortion.

There's a video circulating online from last fall that gives some insight into Stupak's thinking. He says in the video that even if his pro-life amendment to the bill were voted down, he would probably support the final legislation. He would at least have given it (getting abortion funding out) a shot, and his conscience would be clean.

Stupak is a liberal who largely supports President Obama's health care effort and wanted to see it become law. He tried his best to get abortion funding out of the legislation (and he wrongly claims he got a little something to minimize the abortion problems), but it may be that he was never willing to kill a bill that, from his perspective, was still mostly good.

That's one theory, at least. But does Stupak's vote make sense, given his commitment both to the pro-life position and to a liberal universal health care system? Nope.

The bill, on Stupak's own view, would sanction, fund and promote the unjust killing of members of a vulnerable segment of the human family. And that's impossible to justify on the grounds that the bill would (arguably) benefit other human beings (those who are not killed).

Scott Klusendorf writes, "Suppose the bill in question was near perfect, but funded the destruction of two-year-olds to provide comprehensive health care for the rest of us. Can you imagine, even for a moment, [someone] saying, 'Well, let's not reject the whole just because of something we don't like.' "

But apparently that was Stupak's conclusion: "Let's not reject the health care legislation just because of this one bad element (abortion)." Any pro-lifer who takes that view is not thinking straight -- or worse, isn't really pro-life.

Update (3/29):

Rep. Stupak has written an op-ed in the Washington Post, and in fairness I should mention that his explanation adds a new wrinkle to my evaluation. He says he faced a situation in which Speaker Nancy Pelosi already had garnered the votes to pass the bill, even without Stupak's support (or at least so he thought). So Stupak was left with two options: vote "no" and see the bill pass as it was, or offer to vote "yes" in exchange for something (the Obama executive order) that would arguably have at least some benefits. Since something is better than nothing, he chose the latter option.