Bart Stupak's Abortion Contortion

Why the restriction on abortion in the health care bill is unfair. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) tussled with his party's leadership...

Why the restriction on abortion in the health care bill is unfair.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) tussled with his party's leadership in the House of Representatives for months before finally making an actionable threat: give me a floor vote on an abortion-restricting amendment, or I'll kill your health care bill. Under the terms of that health care bill, uninsured Americans will be required to purchase health insurance, and the government will partially subsidize those who can't cover the hefty price. The so-called Stupak amendment, which passed with the support of dozens of Democrats, forbids people who receive that government assistance from buying insurance policies that cover abortion.The pro-life argument for the dread Stupak amendment is pretty straightforward: If the government helps a woman buy health insurance, and she uses that insurance to finance an abortion, then the government is indirectly spending taxpayer money on abortions. And we can't have that because...a majority in Congress say we can't.So now, if Stupak and his sympathizers get their way, most, if not all women paying for health insurance will be forbidden from buying plans that cover abortions. What this will mean for the vast majority of women, who will continue to receive health insurance from their employers, isn't known. If over time most people enter the market to buy their own insurance, the impact could be farther-reaching than even Stupak himself foresees. But at least the government won't be "funding" abortions, right?The problem is that the argument for the Stupak amendment oversimplifies the connection between government money and abortions. Even before Stupak muscled his way into the health care fight, the government was never really going to be funding abortions. The government was going to be funding insurance-private insurance, for the most part-which is really just an intermediary tool for pooling risk and money to finance privately-provided health care services, including, in some cases, abortion.If you're opposed to abortion, and think the government should stay out of it, this may sound like a direct enough connection to justify the Stupak amendment. But there's a logical flaw at the heart of that position that hasn't been fully explored, and that can only be resolved if the government were to either criminalize abortion or end all welfare services completely.The problem with the Stupak amendment is that it assumes there's something unique about each individual dollar-that serial numbers are like DNA and government dollars are distinct from private dollars in a meaningful sense. But they're not. The insurance subsidies can't be used directly to finance other spending-a woman couldn't take her insurance tax credit directly to a grocery store to buy canned goods-but, like all welfare, the point of the spending is to ease up the burden for working Americans so that they're free to pay for other goods and services without going broke. This concept-fungibility-leads us uncomfortable places.Imagine for a moment that Members of Congress had decided that obesity, not abortion, was the nation's most pressing crisis. Americans are too fat, they'd say. Heart disease is a shameful epidemic. They could do a lot of things, in theory, to change peoples' behavior. But, of course, this is America, so taxes and blanket prohibitions are out of the question. Enter hypothetical Rep. Art Stupak, who has a different approach. Instead of battling to ban transfats, Art Stupak demands instead that poor people be forbidden from redeeming food stamps at stores that sell junk food. Government money, he says, shouldn't be used to finance heart disease and its causes.Let's say he wins. Soon, thousands of poor people will cash in their food stamps for Shredded Wheat, resulting in profits for the same company that makes Oreos. Isn't this also the same as government funding junk food? To really cut the tie, you'd have to ban junk food, or end the food stamp program. Anything in between would be an unfair half-measure targeted at the poor.Back in the real world, conservatives may not be a huge fans of food stamps in principle, but they would mock Democrats if they described the food stamp program as "government financing of Nabisco." And yet, this is exactly the gambit Bart Stupak and his allies are pulling in their quest to reduce abortions in this country.That their pet policy will disproportionately effect low- and middle-income women is, for them, an unavoidable side-effect, and an afterthought (if by some curse or miracle, 65 year old, voting women started becoming pregnant, would Stupak be so cavalier about forbidding Medicare from financing abortions?)Now take the logic one step further. Somewhere in America a poor woman on Medicaid is feeding her family with foodstamps, while saving up for an abortion. Obviously she can't redeem her foodstamps at Planned Parenthood, but the dollars are basically still interchangible, and if it weren't for those welfare programs she'd never put together enough money to pay a doctor to end her pregnancy. So is the government funding her abortion? If Bart Stupak had the courage of his convictions, he'd say yes. Welfare, he'd say, is incompatible with the idea that the government shouldn't finance abortions. But nobody says this, either because they don't believe it, or they realize that resolving the conflict would result in an unthinkable injustisce. So instead the fallback position becomes, "make it as hard as possible for the neediest among us to do things we don't like."The political opportunism at the heart of the Stupak amendment is precisely what makes it so incoherent. Private doctors and private hospitals provide abortions, and private insurers feel it's within their interests to finance them. Today, anybody who has the money can buy such a policy, or they can buy abortions out of pocket. That includes rich men, and poor women on food stamps and people whose paychecks come from the government. Using Stupak's logic, and the logic of fungibility, the latter two groups of people are guilty of using government money to help fund abortions.In three years, millions of people will likely be required to buy health insurance. Subsidies are the price the government has to pay to foist that requirement upon them. But the Stupak amendment treats the subsidies as a gift they give to women, conditional on their adherence to pro-life protocols. They've got it backward.
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet