Finding the Hypocrites in the Abortion in Health Care Debate

Amy Sullivan makes the provocative suggestion that Focus on the Family might be funding abortions. She’s not picking on Focus on the Family in particular; she’s just using the group to make a point. Anti-choice groups, including Focus on the Family, (although it hasn’t been the most vocal player) protest, writes Sullivan, “that if any insurance plan that covers abortion is allowed to participate in a public exchange, then premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars.”

Anyone making that argument, says Sullivan, should look at their own company’s insurance plan. If your company’s insurer covers abortion — even if not for your company’s plan — your premiums support the insurer that covers abortion for someone else. And Focus on the Family’s insurer sells plans with abortion coverage.

This should embarrass Focus on the Family, but it won’t. Nothing does. But it’s not just the far right that should be embarrassed; Democrats for Life, the Stupak contingent, and Sojourners’ Jim Wallis have made the same argument.

Stupak protests — too much! — this morning in a letter to The Hill that he is not trying to “kill” health care reform. He just wants to Hyde-ify the House Democrats’ reform bill by adding an amendment that would bar taxpayer dollars, as he defines them, from funding abortion. The Hyde Amendment, which has been in place since 1976, bars Medicaid from paying for abortions. Stupak writes:

This amendment is not about limiting choice when it comes to abortion services. There is nothing in the amendment that prevents those who choose to obtain abortion services from doing so.

Unless, like, they can’t afford it, which is why several states have chosen to fund abortions for low-income women barred by the Hyde Amendment from getting coverage under Medicaid.

Stupak’s argument has been rebutted by his own Democratic colleagues, with Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) cutting it down:

And a woman under his amendment, as I understand it, shopping in the exchange for insurance would not be able to buy coverage for insurance, even with her own money. She would have to actually buy a separate rider, which means she would have to plan for an unplanned event, which I think is illogical. . . . if you wanted to stretch [Stupak’s] argument further, you would end all … tax breaks to employer-based insurance because about 80% of private plans cover abortions, and you would also probably end federal subsidies to some hospitals who perform abortions. So there’s no limit to where you could take it if you want to end all federal support that even indirectly could be involved in an abortion.

Sullivan’s piece shows how absurd the argument is, but not just because Focus on the Family, which often makes absurd arguments, has been caught in a tangle of hypocrisy over it. The argument is absurd because insurance is, at bottom, a collective endeavor; everyone pays into the pot in order to have a pay-out when the need it. That’s true whether the insurance is private or public. But the same is true of government: we pay for a lot of things we don’t like. For some people, it’s war and military contractors. For others, it might be bailouts of Wall Street. But you don’t see a fraction of the handwringing and hairsplitting that we’ve seen over abortion in health care reform.