"This week's abortion conversation is about politics. Let's not pretend it's about anything else," Newsweek's Lisa Miller huffed in a November 18 Newsweek.com post, complaining about how the moral issues surrounding abortion are taking on a life of their own in the health care debate.
We suffer, this week, from a moral myopia. Thanks to the passage in Congress of a health-reform bill, abortion is in the news again, but with the same old warriors brandishing their same old spears.
But while Miller went on to list both pro-life and pro-choice "old warriors," it's hard to believe her beef is with both sides of that fight equally. Miller laments that:
Our entire health-care system (and the proposed reform) is rife with "complex moral issues." To activate our consciences only in the realm of abortion relieves those consciences of too much responsibility.
The Newsweek religion reader goes on to give an example -- insurance coverage for hearing aids -- but it's difficult to imagine she's using that hypothetical as anything more than a smokescreen to insist that abortion is an unnecessary policy speed bump on the road to government-run health care. After all, if there are numerous moral considerations for us as a nation to weigh in the health care debate, it's logical to conclude that Miller is suggesting that health care is ultimately a highly political issue, requiring as it does society to make those determinations by virtue of the political process (i.e. Congress voting for what constitutes "moral" health care coverage).
Miller went on to slam pro-lifers as not only "myopic" but "disingenuous" in their arguments (emphasis mine):
It is disingenuous to argue against abortion in the health-care bill on the grounds that taxpayers should not have to pay for something that goes against their conscience. Taxpayers pay for things they find morally objectionable all the time—war, death-row executions, and the bailout of irresponsible investment banks, for starters.
Wait a minute! Waging war and concluding peace are legitimate constitutional ends of the federal government, and military force is employed towards the common defense, a true public good. Murdering a child in the womb using taxpayer money, is hardly analogous. What's more, pro-lifers aren't arguing they shouldn't be punished for their tax dollars going to subsidize abortions if they lose that fight. They are well aware that moral objection is not an excuse for tax evasion, and it is precisely why this legislative battle is so pitched.
It should be noted, to her credit, Miller also tackled the pro-choice left, albeit cushioning the blow a bit (emphasis mine):
It is similarly disingenuous to describe the Stupak amendment, whose fine points are too wooly to describe here, as a "ban" on abortion. It does raise obstacles, which I believe would unfairly penalize poor and middle-class women. But should the Stupak amendment (or something like it) pass the Senate, abortion would remain legal. In the first trimester, it would continue to be quick, safe, and relatively inexpensive—a lot less than a hearing aid. Most women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, pay for their abortions out of their own pockets; they could continue to do so.
Of course, immediately after this, Miller concluded her November 18 piece by reiterating her lament about our moral "myopia," turning to a Jesuit priest who attacks his Church for being vocally pro-life on abortion issues (emphasis mine):
Our so-called moral outrage, then, is preventing us from taking a clear-eyed look at the moral dimension not just of abortion but of health care as a whole. Ironically, perhaps, the Roman Catholic Church offers one of the most coherent theologies of "life" out there, a commitment to see as sacred all human life, from the embryo to the death-row inmate to the innocent casualties of war. "We're picking and choosing issues," complains Father John Dear, a Jesuit priest and peace activist. "The church has been politicized and the bishops are hammering away at abortion, but that just doesn't make sense." This week's abortion conversation is about politics. Let's not pretend it's about anything else.