The passage of health care reform (something which, incidentally, I don’t think I’ve fully processed yet) is, on multiple levels, a pro-life victory. The dozens of millions of vulnerable persons who have little to no hope in their illness will be brought into the community of persons provided for by our health care system. It doesn’t get more pro-life than that.
And mostly due to the heroic efforts of pro-life democrats like Bart Stupak this bill is a pro-life victory on the abortion front as well. As I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, even the original House bill (which the US Bishops supported) funded abortions, so what was left was jockeying for political and legislative points to make it as baby-friendly as possible. What the pro-lifers got out of this battle was simply extraordinary: not only the Senate bill’s abortion language (which was actually not bad at all), but a public executive order–full of pro-life language stigmatizing abortion as something other than ‘normal’ health care–that has not only powerful symbolic force but also the bite of actual public policy:
The fact is, this is a very big deal. Although the Hyde Amendment is repeatedly renewed, it is not a law on the books per se. It must be renewed each year as part of the budget. This means that every year we have the opportunity to get rid of it (although we have as yet been unsuccessful). An executive order, in contrast, would put these provisions on the books until it is rescinded. It is much harder to rescind an executive order than to change language that must be inserted in the budget yearly. Really, what president would stick his neck out for the 1/3 of women who will need abortions? If we are to be guided by history, nobody.
What the whole health care reform process symbolized and demonstrated is a larger movement away from our old categories and toward a consistent ethic of life. Those on the extremes–who either (1) want to see abortion treated similarly to any other kind of medical procedure, or (2) make anti-abortion arguments while rejecting broader concern for the vulnerable (characterized perfectly by the republican who called Bart Stupak a ‘baby killer’ on the House floor yesterday)–are being pushed to the margins.
The complex, magenta reality is finally starting to push through. And it’s about time.