This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taxpayer funding of abortions

There has been a great deal of attention in the Catholic media to the issue of whether abortion services will be paid for with taxpayer money as part of health care reform. For many years, the Hyde Amendment prevented federal taxpayer funding of Medicaid abortions nationwide, as well as local taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia - although providers got around that by using the Medical Charities fund until the Control Board got wind of it in 1997. The issue now is whether any public option funded by taxpayers includes abortion services. An abortion neutrality amendment was passed on the House side in committee and then reconsidered by Chairman Waxman and overturned, so it is a burning issue for Catholics.

The question I would like to raise is whether it should be. The public option will not be funded by taxpayers per se, but will allow individuals to use their own money and that of their employers to buy insurance offered by the government. Taxpayers will not subsidize abortions under this plan any more than they currently do. This is what most people don't know. Currently, private insurance provides abortion services for many people. For those with employer provided insurance, the employer gets a tax break for providing this insurance. In other words, employers pay lower taxes, in what is called a tax expenditure, to provide health insurance, including abortion services, to their employees. Because of this tax expenditure, we all pay higher taxes. In other words, we all pay just a bit for every insurance funded abortion, albeit remotely.

This topic is actually addressed in Catholic Ethics textbooks. In the book used when I went to Catholic College, Fagothy's Right and Reason, the question of whether one can pay taxes at all if some of the money is used to proved abortions was addressed. The answer was that in a pluralistic society with a representative government the decision to fund abortions is so remote from the taxpayer and the amount is so indirect that the requirement to pay taxes is not overcome by the public funding of abortion. I believe the same principle can be applied to health care reform. Now, I am not saying that we, as Catholics, should not try our best to get abortion neutrality inserted into the bill - however be forwarned that this will not stop tax expenditures for abortion services. Like the Hyde Amendment, such a victory would be largely symbolic - it would not stop the majority of abortion and should not be the reason to oppose health care reform. Indeed, the Bishops have made clear that, like a living wage to provide food and shelter, health care is a basic human right. As long as some are denied that right, it is the responsibility of Catholics to make sure that this denial ends.

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