Wallis: Wrong on the Policy, Wrong on the Politics

>> Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's hard to even know where to begin with what is -- despite some hemming and hawing about "both sides" being at fault that always seems to end up with the pro-choice majority being at fault -- a rousing defense of the Stupak Amendment. [HT, I think, to Dr. Black.] First, on the policy, welcome to non-sequitur theater:

The now-famous Stupak amendment is clearly closer to the pro-life community's understanding of what "neutrality" means than the pro-choice community's. But it is clearly not the caricature it is now being made into by the losing side of the vote, some of whom are now referring to it as "the coat hanger amendment" suggesting that it is designed to push women into back alleys again for illegal abortions by denying them access to legal abortion; it certainly is not.

What it does do is exclude health-care plans in the public option from covering elective abortions; it also disallows any public subsidies from being used for plans in the new exchange which offer elective abortions.

Um, what? I hate to break this to Wallis, but the thing about denying people the money to pay for things is that it denies them access to them if they lack the resources. This is true of his beloved Hyde Amendment, and this is true in a more limited way of the Stupak Amendment. The latter denies women access to legal abortion if they have to buy insurance and couldn't do so without the subsidies. That's why people opposed to abortion rights favor them. You would think that a progressive "pro-lifer" would care that abortion access is being selectively denied for a class of relatively powerless women, but of course Wallis doesn't seem to care at all about such inequities. At any rate, Wallis' argument is like saying that if welfare was abolished, it wouldn't deny many poor people access to adequate sustenance; it would just prevent them from using public money to purchase food. Unless we've suddenly entered a world in which all women have solid middle-class incomes without me noticing, it's a distinction without a difference.

On the politics, he gives the same line anti-choicers fed a credulous Amy Sullivan:

But somewhere along the line, the process broke down. Instead of building on the initial common ground of neutrality and bringing both sides together to hammer out compromises, many pro-life Democrats felt excluded from the conversation about how abortion would be addressed in the bill. Ultimately, they felt they were presented with a final "compromise" on abortion drafted by a predominantly pro-choice committee. Although the Capps Amendment was meant as a good faith effort to find common ground, it was drafted and finalized without enough substantive input from the pro-life community, and it failed to address many pro-life concerns. (In several situations, it even made things worse instead of better.)
So, in other words, 1)opponents of reproductive freedom injected abortion into a debate about health care, 2)the part of the Democratic Party that actually represents the party's core values made some compromises try to get health care passed, and 3)the minority of the party that opposes the party's core principles decided to hold health care hostage until they got the odious language they wanted. And this shows that...pro-choicers injected abortion politics into the health care debate and don't really care about health care reform (because they only way to really care about health care reform is to ensure that it doesn't cover crucial medical procedures for women that Jim Wallis finds icky.) Sure.

Look, I'll make this simple. It was opponents of abortion rights, not supporters, who decided to risk health care reform by introducing a wedge issue. (Note that the leadership didn't try to use health care reform to pursue the salutary goal of getting rid of the Hyde Amendment.) It was Stupak et al. that couldn't abide a bill written by a leadership that actually trued to represent the values of the vast majority of the party and threatened to take their balls and go home. If it fails, it's on them, end of story.

I suppose it should also go without saying that Wallis is also a major proponent of the idea that Democrats could court opponents of abortion rights without any substantive risks. I guess this is the end of that! Although since he seems to define restrictions on access to abortion as not actually being restrictions, maybe he'll keep saying it...


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