Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now In The Pulpit: E.J. Dionne

Hush! Sit back quietly and listen to the sermon, ladies and gentlemen:

For some years, Democrats have denounced parodies that cast their party as utterly closed to the views of those who oppose abortion. Last weekend, Democrats proved conclusively that they are, indeed, a big tent -- and many in the ranks are furious.

From the outraged comments of the abortion-rights movement, you'd think that Rep. Bart Stupak's amendment to the House version of the health-care bill would all but overturn Roe v. Wade.

No, it wouldn't. The Michigan Democrat's measure -- passed 240 to 194, with 64 Democrats voting yes -- would prohibit abortion coverage in the public option and bar any federal subsidies for plans that included abortion purchased on the new insurance exchanges.

Do I hear an AMEN? Louder, please! There's nothing to worry about here. All the Stupak amendment does is extend the reach of the Hyde amendment!

Besides, women don't really use their insurance for abortion coverage, anyway, so who is losing anything at all here? Well, never mind that basic reproductive health visits are not in the basic list which must be covered without extra pay from the patients! That only affects half of Americans, the half which is invisible. But far too many to be catered for by having their basic health care needs covered in the plan. That would take money!

Now for the real message of this sermon:

Last Friday night, Stupak put forward a final compromise to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would have prohibited abortion coverage in the public plan but would have allowed an annual vote on the abortion ban for the private plans. Pro-choice Democrats rejected this, and the stronger version of Stupak's proposal then passed.

What happens now? Democratic supporters of abortion rights need to accept that their House majority depends on a large cadre of antiabortion colleagues. They can denounce that reality or they can learn to live with it.

Let us pray: Dear patriarchs, please cut our access to coverage with tiny, tiny scissors so that the cutting takes a long time. Do not let us notice that legal abortion is already as good as banned for many American women, that abortion services are already nonexistent in many states and that poor women mostly can't afford an abortion. Please give us the humility needed to value the antiabortion colleagues while ignoring our own value to the Democratic party. Amen.

Or put it in somewhat shorter terms: The Democratic Party would NOT be in power without its pro-choice base. So how come that base never gets any goodies at all? It's true that the Republicans are much worse with their misogynistic policies (that's how the "middle" becomes one where misogyny is just like a slight touch of measles, by the way), so the mainstream thinking goes that rabid pro-choicers can be safely ignored. What can they do, after all? Stay at home when elections come around again? Not canvas, not send checks, not staff phones?


But lest we forget, here's what happens if we don't learn the lesson of humility:

The truth is that even with the Stupak restrictions, health-care reform would leave millions of Americans far better off than they are now -- including millions of women. This skirmish over abortion cannot be allowed to destroy the opportunity to extend coverage to 35 million Americans. Killing health-care reform would be bad for choice -- and very bad for the right to life.

Hear my confessions for I have sinned, E.J.. But now I see the light and agree that a fair compromise for health-care reform is over the bodies of women. Because it is much better that way, and in any case I don't want to be the one who destroys the health-care reform movement. Amen.