The health care bill passed

In a straight up vote (not using the “deem and pass” dodge), the final tally was 219 for to 212 against. It took 216 to win.

The difference was the 6 pro-life Democrats who agreed to vote for the bill if the President would sign an executive order forbidding federal money in the program going to pay for abortion. (See post below.)

Now the Senate must pass some reconciliation elements, but since the House passed the Senate bill and since the President will sign it, this is essentially a done deal.

Did you watch the debate? What I saw was quite telling. What did it tell you?

The executive order

Here is the text of President Obama’s executive order that bans federal money in the new national health care system from paying for abortion. Part of it directs officials to come up with a way of “segregating” the money that comes from government subsidies from the money that individuals pay from their own pockets when it comes to abortion coverage. This is what persuaded Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) and other pro-life Democrats to vote for the bill. Read the order (it’s only one page). Do you think it will prevent abortions?

do-nothing Republicans vs. pro-life Democrats

Pro-life activist Marjorie Dannenfelser serves notice on the Republican party, which increasingly seems to be trying to play down the abortion issue.  In the meantime, the lawmakers who are stepping up to fight abortion are pro-life Democrats such as Rep. Bart Stupak, who is blocking the health care bill unless it forbids funding for abortion.

She points out that pro-lifers have been an important part of the Republican base, but they are being taken for granted.  She cites statistics that as many as 75% of Americans, including big majorities in Democratic districts, oppose using federal money to pay for abortion.  But Republicans aren’t taking advantage of this opening.  She indicates that her group will be supporting pro-life Democrats.

via If Republicans keep ignoring abortion, they’ll lose in the midterm elections – washingtonpost.com.

Are you a single-issue pro-life voter?  What would it take for you to switch to the Democratic party?

Or is the author exaggerating the problem in saying that Republicans are more interested now in economic issues and Tea Party activism?   Aren’t most Tea Party activists also pro-life?

Organ harvest in ER

In a bid to get more organs to transplant, the federal government is funding a program to remove organs in emergency rooms as soon as the heart stops beating.  Nevermind about brain death.  The sooner hearts, lungs, and livers are removed, the better they work, so it’s good to harvest them while the body is still warm.  This, however, raises ethical concerns:

In the hope of expanding a controversial form of organ donation into emergency rooms around the United States, a federally funded project has begun trying to obtain kidneys, livers and possibly other body parts from car-accident victims, heart-attack fatalities and other urgent-care patients.

Using a $321,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, the emergency departments at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian Hospital and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh have started rapidly identifying donors among patients whom doctors are unable to save and taking steps to preserve their organs so a transplant team can rush to try to retrieve them.

Obtaining organs from emergency room patients has long been considered off-limits in the United States because of ethical and logistical concerns. This pilot project aims to investigate whether it is feasible and, if so, to encourage other hospitals nationwide to follow. So far, neither hospital has yet gotten any usable organs.

“This is about helping people who have declared themselves to be donors, but die in a place where donation is currently not possible,” said Clifton W. Callaway, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh who is leading the project. “It’s also about helping the large number of people awaiting transplants who could die waiting because of the shortage of organs.”

Critics say the program represents a troubling attempt to bring a questionable form of organ procurement into an even more ethically dicey situation: the tumultuous environment of an ER, where more than ever it raises the specter of doctors preying on dying patients for their organs.

“There’s a fine line between methods that are pioneering and methods that are predatory,” said Leslie M. Whetstine, a bioethicist at Walsh University in Ohio. “This seems to me to be in the latter category. It’s ghoulish.”

For decades, most hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers and other organs obtained for transplants in the United States have come from patients who have been pronounced dead in a hospital after a complete cessation of brain activity, known as brain death, was carefully determined.

But because thousands of people die each year waiting for organ transplants, the federal government has begun promoting an alternative that involves surgeons taking organs, within minutes, from patients whose hearts have stopped beating but who have not been declared brain-dead. The faster organs are retrieved, the better the chances they will be useable.

Although increasingly common, the practice remains controversial because of questions about whether organ preservation and removal might begin before patients are technically dead, and because of fears that doctors might not do everything possible to save patients and may even hasten their deaths, to increase the chance of obtaining organs.

In the United States, the practice, known as “donation after cardiac death,” or DCD, is being done only on patients in the intensive-care unit or other parts of the hospital for whom the possibility of death has been long anticipated, and there has been time to methodically assess their condition and make sure family members are comfortable with the decision. Each hospital can decide whether and how to perform the procedure.

In 2008, the Children’s Hospital in Colorado sparked intense debate with a federally funded DCD pilot project that involved taking hearts from babies 75 seconds after they were removed from life support. After an intensive review, the hospital restarted the program about two months ago but required that surgeons wait two minutes.

via Project to get transplant organs from ER patients raises ethics questions – washingtonpost.com.

Would universal health care lower the abortion rate?

Catholic journalist T. J. Reid makes a challenging connection for us pro-lifers:

Increasing health-care coverage is one of the most powerful tools for reducing the number of abortions — a fact proved by years of experience in other industrialized nations. All the other advanced, free-market democracies provide health-care coverage for everybody. And all of them have lower rates of abortion than does the United States.

This is not a coincidence. There’s a direct connection between greater health coverage and lower abortion rates. To oppose expanded coverage in the name of restricting abortion gets things exactly backward. It’s like saying you won’t fix the broken furnace in a schoolhouse because you're against pneumonia. Nonsense! Fixing the furnace will reduce the rate of pneumonia. In the same way, expanding health-care coverage will reduce the rate of abortion.

At least, that’s the lesson from every other rich democracy.

The latest United Nations comparative statistics, available at http://data.un.org, demonstrate the point clearly. The U.N. data measure the number of abortions for women ages 15 to 44. They show that Canada, for example, has 15.2 abortions per 1,000 women; Denmark, 14.3; Germany, 7.8; Japan, 12.3; Britain, 17.0; and the United States, 20.8. When it comes to abortion rates in the developed world, we’re No. 1.

No one could argue that Germans, Japanese, Brits or Canadians have more respect for life or deeper religious convictions than Americans do. So why do they have fewer abortions?

One key reason seems to be that all those countries provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost. That has a profound effect on women contemplating what to do about an unwanted pregnancy.

via T.R. Reid – Universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate – washingtonpost.com.

How would you answer this?   If you don’t accept this explanation, how would you account for the USA having the highest abortion rate?   If the connection the author posits is real, shouldn’t pro-lifers support some version of universal health care, even it means sacrificing some of our lesser principles?

UPDATE: Michael New answers the article.

Gendercide

Mollie Hemingway writes about media coverage of sex-selective abortion, particularly in China and India where families want sons and so get an abortion if their in utero baby is a girl.  This even has acquired a name, something to add to our vocabulary:  gendercide.

Mollie (I can call her that because I know her) cites a story in The Christian Science Monitor about the consequences of wiping out so many females in the population.  It features a farmer in India lamenting that he can’t find a wife to marry.  Mollie tells about how he is “lamenting that he no longer cares about caste, religion or looks — he just wants a wife to give him a son. Funny, isn’t it. It’s hard to find a wife to give you a son when the people of your country are killing so many of the unborn female children because they’re not sons.”

via The war on girls » GetReligion.


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