Monday, November 9, 2009

Questions From A Reader

From Mason, in comments to the previous post:
Master of the Machines,
Two questions: 1. What's your take on the Stupak Amdt? (Was it a good thing in itself?) 2. Is it better to have 40 conservative blue dogs in Congress or 40 Republicans?

First of all, come on! I'm not the dang Master of the Machines! Conservative autocracy--hoarded power, son!--the great owners and their lieutenants, try to make us all into machines. I'm trying to remind us that we're people(!) and we can build a country where we act like it. I'm trying to overthrow the Masters of the Machines! Alright, alright, I've caught my breath. Moving on...

1. I think it's a distraction from health care reform. But others' opinions will vary depending on what they think about abortion itself, something I've generally avoided delving into on this blog. (I may lift that embargo soon, because the issue is getting harder to ignore.) From what I understand, the Stupak Amendment is billed as "prohibiting federal funding for abortions," when in reality, it introduces new restrictions. It pretty much says that no insurance plan except a private plan where the consumer is paying 100% of the cost can include coverage for "abortions"--and the term includes more than you might think. That means that private plans on the "national exchange" described in the reform bill--not to mention the public option--would not have coverage for abortion procedures. So basically, it will be harder for poor people to get abortions--or at least harder to get them without being financially ruined. The amendment will do nothing to reduce the demand for or number of abortions, because that's not really the point, is it?

I think the health care reform bill is the wrong place to have an abortion debate. At worst, I think the Stupak Amendment was actually meant to deflate left-wing support for the bill and thereby kill meaningful reform.

2. It's better to have 40 conservative blue dog Democrats than 40 Republicans, even though it doesn't always feel like it. That's because the Blue Dogs are easier for progressives to pressure than Republicans are. I read an article yesterday showing how much even blue dogs rely on organized labor for money and grassroots power. If the Left really wants to, it can pull the plug on a blue dog, or better yet, beat them with a progressive candidate in the primary. There's lots of talk right now across the 'tubes about "primarying" the House Dems who voted against H.R. 3962. At the very least, progressives can raise hell and make blue dogs worry about shoring up their left flank. There aren't as many tools available when you're dealing with Republicans, because the coalition they ride to power doesn't really care about anything you care about...unless you're really into lowering minimum wage and safety standards in the workplace, passing a flag burning amendment, or slashing pesky environmental safeguards.


Solid said...

Darn those environmental safeguards! Kidding. Ok, you say that the cost of an abortion could ruin a low income American family. Are you just referring to second trimester abortions? I thought first trimester abortions were just a few hundred dollars. Or am I missing something? (Serious question - I'm not trying to bait you.)

Dave said...

No worries. In general, I know almost nothing about costs of abortion procedures. What I had in mind when I wrote this post was this story by a woman with insurance who had to pay $1,500 for a procedure after a miscarriage--a procedure she thinks would be denied under the Stupak Amendment. That's also part of what I was referring to when I said the term "abortions" includes more than we might think.

I guess it's debatable if $1,500 "ruins" a poor family. But my point is that the main effect of the amendment, as I understand it, is to make it harder for lower-income women to get abortions. And a secondary effect is to get the country arguing about abortion instead of health insurance reform. Along those lines, I like what Obama said tonight on ABC... basically that this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill, and it shouldn't change the status quo on abortion one way or the other.

Sara said...

I was picturing so many Transformer robots during the beginning of this post....

I'm with you on the abortion issue being a total distraction.
I'm not pro-abortion, but I can't really see the govt making medical decisions for folks. But that's another zubject.

Becky said...

I think the "few hundred dollars" is what you would pay at Planned Parenthood on their sliding scale, or at a similar clinic. According to PP, a first trimester abortion ranges from $350-900. Of course, most places don't have one of those clinics.

Second trimester would yes, be way more. The summer before I got pregnant with Hank, I had a miscarriage at 8 or 9 weeks. I had a surgical D&C, and it cost $1800. Or that was what our insurance paid--i.e., their negotiated rate--I'm sure that the bill was much higher. That included general anasthesia, which you don't get in a clinic, but boy, I would hate to be without it.

I read the story you linked to, and her point is well-taken--that a D&C is a D&C. But I wonder about an even more gray area: people who find that their baby has an unsurvivable birth defect, and choose to end those pregnancies. That is technically an elective abortion, and I betcha this statutory language could be interpreted to exclude those from coverage.

I think the Stupak amendment was another sidedoor attempt to erode access to abortions. Another in a long line of attempts that have succeeded brilliantly, as most women in this country do not have access to a safe, legal abortion, because of an escalating shortage of people willing to do it.

My $.02.

Mason said...

I think it really does all come down to how you view abortion. This amendment was primarily pushed by those who believe abortion is wrong and that it should be stymied however possible; although there are certainly many on the right who have used it to distract from the central issues of health insurance reform.
Surely this bill will decrease the number of abortions. Often, an abortion decision is an economic decision-a single woman decides it would be overwhelming, at least financially so, to have a child, and so opts for an abortion (this is of course only one component of the decision). The increased out of pocket costs might balance the scales a little more in the other direction, but who really knows how many might make a different decision.
It's agreed that this bill is the wrong place to have this debate, but mark this up as a victory for those who see abortion as morally unacceptable.
My question about blue dogs vs republicans assumed that the alternative to a blue dog is really just going to be a republican; so why not at least passively support them? Many many of these blue dogs are from conservative districts and if they were straight up liberals they would never be elected. What really gets me is somebody like Lieberman who wants to caucus with the Dems, has a liberal constituency, and is still against pretty much any progressive cause. I say take it on a seat by seat basis and kick out anyone not pulling their weight given their districts/states.

Chris said...

three words: third trimester abortion

Wifey said...

"I think that when America finally bans the death penalty, it won't be so much a result of arguments about deterrence and cost and so on. It will be because we grow to see executing criminals as a clumsy and barbaric institution."

If I may reference the way you described the death penalty in the blog right after this one - because what you said here is so right - if you replaced the words "death penalty" and "criminals" with "abortion" and "babies", it becomes more clear to know how the people on the other side of the argument feel. Human life - so hard to watch when others decide who lives and who doesn't.

Definitely not trying to pick a fight. I feel that the government, under any administration has such a clumsy and politically motivated use for this topic, and real women's lives are affected by politics, which I despise. I've worked in campaigns and for a member of congress, and I am so scarred (for lack of a better term) by the ghastly use of policy to win elections.

Anyway, I'm a longtime and appreciative reader. At least this comment is submitted so long after you wrote it that hopefully few people will read it and become furious.

Dave said...

Wifey, thanks for the comment and sorry it's taken me so long to respond.

I don't think any of the regular readers of this blog would be furious about anything you wrote. I agree with the way you explain how many opponents of abortion feel about the issue. To many, it just seems like such a morally obvious answer, the way ending the death penalty seems to me.

I hope you'll stick around BTM long enough to talk more about this. Because I don't really fall on either of the two "sides" on the abortion issue--at least the way we usually define the sides. This blog is way left of center, but I don't take what might be considered the way-left-of-center stance on abortion. I think both of the traditional "sides" on the issue say stuff that is just wrong, and politicians on both sides abuse this and so many other issues just to claw their way ahead.