The status quo on federal abortion funding leaves a lot to be desired, and not just for abortion-rights hardliners. Current law offers antiabortion citizens the peace of knowing that while abortion may be legal, at least their taxes aren't paying for it. In exchange for these clean hands, Americans get a system in which women who rely on the federal safety net for their health coverage don't have access to abortion, while women of greater means do. The Stupak Amendment to the House's health-insurance bill would make this inequality worse.
Health-care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit in September, the subject was barely on their radar screen.
On May 13, I lingered in Upper Senate Park, just north of the U.S. Capitol, hearing New Orleans jazz coming from down Constitution Avenue. Then I saw the brass band leading a lively procession of hundreds of nurses, other medical professionals and patient advocates.
Longtime advocates of single-payer insurance like me are thrilled, anxious and deflated simultaneously by the state of the debate on health-care reform. The debate that we wanted has finally come, and it is coming with a legislative rush, but the plan that we wanted is being excluded from consideration. Should we hold out for the real thing, or get behind the best politically possible thing?
I am for doing both: Standing up for single-payer without holding out for it exclusively; supporting a public option without denying its limitations; and hoping that a good public plan will lead eventually to real national health insurance.
President Obama’s plan to give all Americans the option of a government-run health insurance plan got a frigid reception in June from the American Medical Association, the nation’s leading lobbying group for physicians. Offering a public plan would “restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers,” the AMA warned in a statement before Obama appeared before the group.
Shortly before Christmas, while defending his plan to give federal aid to the collapsing U.S. automakers, President Bush remarked, “I have abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”