As anti-choice protester Randall Terry travels the South performing gruesome "death panel" reenactments, some pro-life Democrats in Congress say they'll block any healthcare reform bill until all coverage for abortion is removed.
An article by Michael Sherer in Time lays out the status of abortion coverage in the current healthcare reform legislation. Currently, no federal funds can be used for abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or threat to the mother's life. That means Medicaid — and even private health plans offered to government employees — can only cover abortion under these circumstances. Under the new legislation, private insurers who chose to cover abortion would have to do so with funds kept separate from government subsidies. The (now moribund) public option would offer coverage for abortion, but this could only be paid for by members' dues, not by the government. However, there's currently no way for members to opt out of paying for abortion coverage, meaning, according to anti-abortion Representative Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), "You are spreading the cost of the procedure over a public plan."
Of course, since it's getting less and less likely that we'll even get a public option, that part of the abortion-healthcare debate may well be moot. But that might not matter to abortion opponents like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who claim it's an "illusion" that government subsidies can be separated from other funds. In a letter to Congress, Cardinal Justin Rigali wrote, "Funds paid into these plans are fungible, and federal taxpayer funds will subsidize the operating budget and provider networks that expand access to abortion." But anyone who's worked for an organization that takes money from the government, and who has had to, say, separate out all alcohol for every business dinner to make sure the feds don't pay for it, knows that federal funds really aren't that "fungible," and that keeping them separate from other money is sometimes difficult but definitely possible — and often tightly enforced.
Regardless of reason, though, some anti-choicers are willing to sacrifice healthcare reform so that no drop of federal money ever pays for an abortion. Stupak says he has 39 Democratic allies in Congress, and that they "are going to do everything we can to stop the rule, or the bill, from coming to the floor." He also takes issue with Obama's statements on abortion. The President has said, "You've heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true." But Stupak says Obama doesn't understand healthcare reform, or "if he is aware of it, and he is making these statements, then he is misleading people." What really misleads people, though, is the fact that the otherwise pretty useful Time article ends with this quotation, without challenging it — even though Scherer is careful at the beginning of the piece to say that Obama's statement is "technically true."
Of course, none of this matters in crazyland, where anti-choice protester Randall Terry is busy pretending to kill old ladies. He's on a 10-city tour of the South, and yesterday found him in Louisville, KY. There he dressed up as a doctor, stood in front of a sign that read, "Obama death-care. One dead patient at a time," and pretended to stab first a baby doll and then an actress playing an old woman. Writes Joe Sonka of Feministe, "He then shook the hand of a white guy in an Obama mask over the woman on the ground." All because Republican Senator Mitch McConnell hasn't opposed health care reform enough. This is the same senator who said in July that the American people "don't want [...] a government takeover of health care that costs trillions of dollars, adds to our unsustainable national debt, forces them off the health insurance they have, leaves them paying more for worse care than they now receive, and leads to the same kind of denial, delay, and rationing of care we see in other countries." Instead, he thinks we need smoking cessation programs and tax breaks. What a bleeding-heart socialist.
Perhaps the best commentary on Terry's grotesque charade comes from two teenagers, 13-year-old Jontrez London and 14-year-old Malcolm Wells. Watching the "stabbings" in Nashville, London said, "I think this is a disgrace. Obama's trying to save people. He ain't gonna try to kill an old lady." Wells responded, "These are adults acting like children." Can we get these kids in Congress?