Chaput is Right, Chaput is Wrong

Chaput is Right, Chaput is Wrong March 19, 2010

The Denver prelate’s latest:

“If the defective Senate version of health-care reform pushed by congressional leaders passes into law—against the will of the American people and burdened by serious moral problems in its content—we’ll have “Catholic” voices partly to thank for it. And to hold responsible.”

Fair enough. But by the same token, if this bill fails, then I could say that the Catholic voices (I will not use scare quotes around the word Catholic) are partly responsible, given the exceptionally rigid opposition, for those who will suffer and die in the future for lack of healthcare.

But this is ultimately a fruitless line of argument. Every day, we make prudential judgments based on incomplete information. Chaput clearly thinks that this healthcare reform will lead to a big spike in abortion rates, and these abortion rates will be financed by taxpayers. I don’t buy it. My reading of the bill is that taxpayer funds cannot be used for abortion. I don’t believe for an instant that the Community Health Centers would have either the ability or inclination to get into the abortion business. I believe that many states will ban all plans with abortion from accessing the exchange, prohibiting even those without subsidies from purchasing a plan that includes abortion – something the Stupak amendment does not do. And given the need for separate payments, I can’t imagine many people desiring such a policy, and hence the “market” will not provide such policies.

Furthermore, I also believe that universal healthcare is a contributing factor to lower abortion rates. After all, if an insured woman finds herself pregnant, what are her choices? Pay $25,000 in childbirth costs, or pay $400 for an abortion? As Cardinal Hume put it, “If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?” Not to everybody! As T.R. Reid wrote recently, “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.” There is certainly some evidence that abortion declined under the Romney reform, which is uncannily similar to the Senate bill in many aspects. It is true that correlation does not provide causality. You might also argue that abortion rates were trending down anyway, and that is true, but we certainly didn’t see a jump in abortions. Some of the responses to this claim are just silly. For instance, Michael New argues that “The United States has a far more racially diverse population than many of these European countries, and statistics show that a number of minority groups have higher-than-average abortion rates.” To which my answer is – exactly! Abortion the United States is primarily a problem with poor minority women, highlighting the link yet again between poverty and abortion (I talked about this before) and healthcare and abortion.

Anyway, these are all empirical questions, prudential questions. Archbishop Chaput’s judgment may be more correct than mine, but I personally do believe that to be the case. Nonetheless, I don’t want to cast aspersions on him, or any of the other bishops who take this position. I believe they want healthcare reform, and are disappointed not to be able to support it. I think they are wrong, and I think they are naive, and I find their stance frustrating, but I still respect them. I just wish Archbishop Chaput would extend the same courtesy to those equally earnest Catholics who take a different view, as did Bishop Lynch.

 (The people I don’t respect are those who oppose healthcare anyway, even if abortion was not an issue, and are using the bishops’ position as a fig-leaf for their hyper-Calvinist stance. We all know who they are).

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