Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Health care reform shorts: guys in black shirts are at it again

It's sad, though not really surprising, to see the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church lined up with Republicans in the "Just Die" faction on health care reform.

The Senate bill that will be the basis for the reconciled overall bill doesn't make it quite hard enough for poor women to get abortions for the bishops' taste. No taxpayer money will go to abortions -- that was never going to happen. But private companies that choose to sell policies in the new exchange insurance market will be allowed to include riders for abortion coverage -- so long as the insured women pay for that coverage themselves.

Get over yourselves gentlemen. You have the wrong plumbing to be trying to dictate on this.

UPDATE: T. R. Reid in the Washington Post relates an anecdote from a Bishop who didn't have to be authoritarian about reducing abortion. Reid was trying to understand why all developed countries have a lower incidence of abortion than the United States.

One key reason seems to be that all those countries provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost. That has a profound effect on women contemplating what to do about an unwanted pregnancy.

The connection was explained to me by a wise and holy man, Cardinal Basil Hume. He was the senior Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales when I lived in London; as a reporter and a Catholic, I got to know him.

In Britain, only 8 percent of the population is Catholic (compared with 25 percent in the United States). Abortion there is legal. Abortion is free. And yet British women have fewer abortions than Americans do. I asked Cardinal Hume why that is.

The cardinal said that there were several reasons but that one important explanation was Britain's universal health-care system. "If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it's needed," Hume explained, "she's more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn't it obvious?"

There's a Bishop who gets it.

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