Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's Not A Choice. It's A Child.

This is the message on an anti-abortion bumper sticker. I was reminded of it when reading what the National Review Online has to say about the family of Bethany Wilkerson, a two-year old who has received treatment under the SCHIP and whose story is used as an ad for expanding the program by TrueMajorityAction. Those who have followed the Graeme Frost debate probably know what the main conservative argument here is: What the Frosts and Wilkersons have experienced is mostly the fault of their own bad decisions, and those of us who don't make bad decisions shouldn't have to pay taxes that cover those who do.

The NRO article takes the bumper sticker message in my post's title and turns it upside down:

While USAction and a labyrinthine maze of leftist activist groups prepare to rally around images of Tampa Bay's Most Photogenic Baby holding up a crayon sign that says "Don't Veto Me," Dara and Brian Wilkerson are real poster children — for irresponsible decisions.

On the conference call, Dara admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married. She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was "unmanageable." From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway, presuming that others would pay for it and certainly long before they knew their daughter would have a heart defect that probably cost the gross national product of Burkina Faso to fix. But not knowing about future health problems is the reason we have insurance in the first place.

Or in short: It's the choice that matters, not the child. And this child already exists.

The conservative arguments about fertility tend to be confusing. Contrast the above curmudgeony approach with the other common theme about the conservatives being the people who still want to have lots of children. David Brooks once famously wrote:

All across the industrialized world, birthrates are falling - in Western Europe, in Canada and in many regions of the United States. People are marrying later and having fewer kids. But spread around this country, and concentrated in certain areas, the natalists defy these trends.

They are having three, four or more kids. Their personal identity is defined by parenthood. They are more spiritually, emotionally and physically invested in their homes than in any other sphere of life, having concluded that parenthood is the most enriching and elevating thing they can do. Very often they have sacrificed pleasures like sophisticated movies, restaurant dining and foreign travel, let alone competitive careers and disposable income, for the sake of their parental calling

And who are these pro-child people? Do they all have private health insurance for their children?

Brooks doesn't tell us that, but he defines them as social conservatives and notes that white natalists tend to be concentrated in the red states. They might even have voted for George Bush. They are Good People!

Yet the Wilkersons, with similar desires and struggles, are not. Instead, they are an example of the consequences of poor decision-making skills. Funny, that.

Cross-posted at TAPPED.