The worst kind of middle ground

November 24, 2009

The Democrats have built their majority by expanding their tent; as a
result there is now a sizable group of antiabortion Democrats in
Congress. The new abortion divide—intra- along with inter-party—has
shaken the Democratic consensus on health insurance reform.

In a commentary for the Century,
I take a look at the Stupak Amendment, the 11th-hour addition to the
House health-insurance bill that would ban abortion coverage in the
bill’s “public option” plan and in most plans sold on new insurance
exchanges. I argue against the amendment on the grounds that it would
perpetuate further the existing income gap in abortion access.

While
Americans lack consensus on abortion rights, our laws too often reflect
a perverse consensus on whose rights matter most: it’s far easier
politically to go after those with less money. The centrist position on
abortion (to the extent that such a thing exists) tends to focus on
low-income women and the sets of bad choices they’re often faced with.
It downplays the tougher ethical questions: what about women with
comfortable incomes and good insurance who simply don't want to have a
baby? Should they have access to elective abortion?

If the
Stupak Amendment becomes law, they may well be the only ones who do.
All eyes are on the Senate, where Sen. Orrin Hatch is expected to introduce a similar amendment to the Senate's health-insurance bill.