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Health Care Outcome: Too Close to Call?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 22, 2010

I may be going out on a limb here, but my sense is that the ultimate outcome of the U.S. health care reform situation is still too close to call. I understand that the Senate bill was voted into law by a narrow margin and with a very dubious “compromise” in the form of an executive order by President Obama to enforce the principles of the Hyde Amendment. I tend to agree with the National Right to Life Committee and others that the executive order probably doesn’t have much by way of legal legs. So I regard an expansion of abortion in health care to be theoretically open through accounting sleight-of-hand in a way that it wasn’t before Sunday.

But I say “theoretically” open because there is still a long way to go, and I believe we’ve learned several important lessons from this battle:

  1. The Obama administration just barely got what it regards as a half-measure through Congress despite this being the signature legislation that pundits argued would make or break Obama’s presidency. Considering the relentless effort, the victory has an eerily pyrrhic quality. The Obama Administration and the Democratic Party got their majority vote, but in general they have taken an enormous hit.
  2. The second lesson is that the mood of the nation has swung dramatically since Obama’s campaign swept the Democratic Party into power. If the recession continues to drag on through a lengthy “jobless recovery”, this mood is going to worsen. One always wonders whether Republicans are capable of capitalizing on national moods, but Democrats typically do not understand how the economy works, and a party power shift in the next election appears extremely likely.
  3. There are other significant points on which the health care legislation is vulnerable, including the provisions which force citizens to purchase life insurance or face fines and imprisonment. Virginia, led by Delegate Bob Marshall, has become the first state to pass a law countermanding the new Federal legislation, in effect seeking to protect the citizens of Virginia against unconstitutional Federal encroachment. Thirty-three other states are expected to follow suit.
  4. Perhaps I should also mention, for those who think long-term, that the prevailing national uncertainty suggests this is an excellent time to form a new party incorporating the best and most moral aspects of what both the Republicans and the Democrats have to offer. There is an opportunity for such a party to gain more initial traction than at most times, which could catapult it to respectability in a shorter period of time.

Moreover, from a purely Catholic perspective, this was the first battle I can remember in which the Catholic Bishops as a group squared off against the secularist Catholics who have come to dominate Federal politics on the one hand and Catholic university and religious life on the other. For the first time in more than a generation, the U.S. bishops have shown remarkable unanimity in refusing to cede more territory in the name of the signs of the times. The slow rise to cultural independence and orthodoxy on the part of the American episcopacy has finally brought the bishops into direct conflict with the very bad Catholics they have largely both created and abetted in the past.

The bishops are finally to some extent engaged in a battle for the control of the Church as properly conceived. Even if you still have little confidence in their willingness to act in defense of Catholic principles for their own sake, I can assure you that bishops do not like to be openly opposed by those who claim to be Catholic. It is impossible, I think, to overestimate the current potential for intense psychological motivation among the bishops to get back some of their own.

So did pro-lifers lose or win on Sunday? For my money, the outcome is still too close to call.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: mjarman7759049 - Mar. 24, 2010 9:57 AM ET USA

    As usual, I generally agree with Jeff's points, particularly the pyrrhic nature of the Democrat "victory." However, I believe it is only pyrrhic "at the moment." Unless the Republicans move quickly, it is quite possible that momentum will be lost (cf. front page of USATODAY). Secondly, the focus on the technical, legal effect of an Executive Order is misplaced. The important question is whether Obama (by pure political necessity) will stick with the Executive Order and enforce it rigorously.

  • Posted by: paulmay6949 - Mar. 23, 2010 11:41 PM ET USA

    I guess I am a cynic, but I sure would like to see a document signed by all 265 voting members of the USCCB, to the effect that the Catholic Church in America is indeed committed ending federal government funding of abortion, and ending all and any association with entities that do not subscribe to this principal, and which in any way support entities who do not absolutely endorse all the teachings of the Church, including marriage only of a man and a woman, male heterosexual priests, etc.

  • Posted by: tim.moore1408 - Mar. 23, 2010 8:25 PM ET USA

    You are far too kind, generous of spirit and hopeful. The Huns are not at the gate; the walls have been breached, the ramparts overtaken, the maidens raped, the coffers plundered and the city is in flames. God willing, some bishops are going to do time in purgatory if God is a merciful God. The Republican party is in disarray, and does not believe the Tea Party enthusiasts have anything to say; the hopefuls who have shown at the rallies are disorganized and clueless, and no one has an answer.

  • Posted by: voxfem - Mar. 23, 2010 7:36 PM ET USA

    I've been hoping for a 3rd party option. It would be wonderful to have a choice which I could whole-heartedly support. I pray the Republicans have the brains and moral backbones to stand up and support life in the upcoming election and not just run a negative, hate-the-Democrats campaign. I want a solution to the problem, not just be told there is a problem.

  • Posted by: GymK - Mar. 23, 2010 4:22 PM ET USA

    Fr. Paul Marx died the day before the HC Bill passed. Fr. always said that politics would never solve the abortion issue-only turning to God would do that. Our duty was to pray, sacrifice and lead good lives. In the 60's Fr. Paul preached about the interconnection of the three great evils in American life; artificial birth control, abortion and euthanasia—that all three take a life—and that once you accept one, the others logically follow! Fr. Paul, R.I.P. (article & obituary)

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Mar. 23, 2010 8:01 AM ET USA

    This is fantasy. Obama signs the bill today, making it the law of the land. The bishops awoke far far too late after pushing for health care for so long, now this is what they got, thanks to their 'Catholic' legislators. At this stage, more Americans listen to the CHA and the dissident nuns than to the bishops. The shepherds have allowed the wolf through the gate. IMHO, major repentance on the part of the bishops is in order but I doubt if I will ever see it in my lifetime.

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