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one battle won; prepare for more

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 09, 2009

The adoption of the Stupak amendment, as the result of tough bargaining on Capitol Hill over health-care reform proposals, was a significant victory for pro-life forces.*  But let's keep things in perspective: it was a victory in one isolated battle, not in the whole campaign. There will be more battles to fight.

For instance, when the scene shifts to the Senate, if pro-life forces waver at all, the Stupak language might be dropped from the Senate version of the bill. Then the differences between the two pieces of legislation would be ironed out by a conference committee, in a process dominated by the Democratic Party leadership. There's little chance that the Stupak language would survive.

Moreover, the moral problem posed by subsidies for abortion will be raised again and again in any government-financed system for health care. Should taxpayers subsidize sterilization? Sex-change operations? Physician-assisted suicide? Transplants of vital organs removed from comatose patients? A Wall Street Journal editorial explains the underlying problem:

The real importance of the abortion uproar is as preview of the politics that will dominate every medical coverage issue if ObamaCare becomes law. Every decision of what to insure or not—when an MRI can be used, or whether a stage-four breast cancer patient can get Avastin or some future expensive drug—will become subject to political intervention over moral disputes or budget constraints.


Some pro-lifers, I realize, question whether the Stupak amendment really was a victory. If the amendment was a compromise that made the whole health-care package more likely to become law, they reason, it was unwise to support it. I disagree, for two reasons:

  1. A vote for the Stupak amendment was not a vote in favor of "Obamacare," but a vote to remove one of the most odious provisions of the proposal. Nobody wants to eat a bowl of dirt. But if you're afraid that you might be forced to do so, even though you'll fight against it, it makes sense to have the arsenic removed from the bowl beforehand.
  2. Oddly enough, passage of the Stupak amendment could make it less likely, not more, that Obamacare will become law. As long as the pro-life language stays in the bill, some hard-care leftists will oppose the legislation. If the same piece of legislation comes up in the House of Representatives again, powerful lobbies like Planned Parenthood will be working against it. 


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