As the debate over the Senate’s health care reform bill comes down to the wire, proponents are trying just about anything to get people to buy into it. Richard Lowery, Interim Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lexington Seminary, an institution affiliated with the officially pro-choice Disciples of Christ (whose president, the Rev. Sharon Watkins, happens to be Lowery’s wife), writes in Sojourners that, contrary to what the Catholic bishops and National Right-to-Life Committee say, the bill is actually a pro-life document.
He starts by making the usual case for the need for reform, complete with the usual phony numbers:
A recent study estimates that 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have health insurance.
This is a red herring. The study in question was carried out by a group of supporters of a single payer system, who manipulated their numbers so as to get the highest figure they could. Megan McArdle, economics and business editor for The Atlantic. said in response to this study that “I have to conclude that their political beliefs are affecting their work, which means I wouldn’t touch that 45,000 number with a bargepole–I wouldn’t cite anything they authored even if it offered to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was right about everything.”
In fact, McArdle cites a more reputable study from the Institute of Medicine and the Urban Institute that found that the condition that best correlated with mortality was not being uninsured, but being enrolled in a government health program (e.g., Medicaid). In addition, it’s long been the case that hospitals are prohibited from refusing to treat people who don’t have insurance, so that many of the instances where people died from inadequate care is the result of their not taking advantage of what was available to them, rather than because they didn’t have insurance. The point is that a statement like, “so and so many people die each year because they lack health insurance is not only likely wrong on the number, but so lacking in context as to be practically meaningless.
Anyway, Lowery goes on to claim that the bill is a way to prevent abortions, and that it doesn’t allow federal payment for them:
I’ve read the pertinent section of the Senate bill (Section 1303. Special Rules) very carefully. It explicitly bans federal funding of abortion and requires people who want insurance that covers abortion to pay for that additional coverage out of their own pockets. Insurance companies even have to keep abortion insurance payments separate so they don’t “mingle” with federal funds they receive for other things.
On abortion, this bill keeps the legal status quo and actually makes it easier for women to choose to carry their pregnancies to full term.
The bill is not perfect, but it will save the lives of tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Americans every year — born and not-yet-born. This is the time for moral courage, not political calculation. “Yes” is the pro-life vote.
It is true that there are various provisions in Section 1303 that prohibit federal funds from being used to fund abortions. It is also true that there are other provisions in the bill that have the opposite effect.
For just one example, there’s the funding of “Community Health Centers,” a provision slipped into the bill during the open-pit barbecue and singalong that Harry Reid had for his majority in December. The brainchild of Vermont socialist (his term) Sen. Bernie Sanders, it appropriates $10 billion to fund such centers, the purpose of which is described in Section 10503 (page 2355 of the bill, if you’d like to take a look for yourself) as being “to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in community health centers under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act and the National Health Service Corps.” There are no restrictions on these funds, which, because they are appropriated separately from the funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, do not come under the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.
The point is that there are a variety of weasally mechanisms buried in the Senate bill that make it anything but a “pro-life” document. All the efforts of people such as Lowery, and religious left media such as Sojourners, who desperately want this bill to pass and are looking for any way possible to blunt the pro-life opposition to it, cannot change that.