HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas

Confederacy of Hypocrites Cuts Health Care

Like a bizarre reality show, the Republican primary-without-end has spawned a swarm of oxymoron voters: ardently pro-life, yet ardently anti-government. This modern-day confederacy of hypocrites has a cause: the fetus. They want to save all of them.

At a time when American soldiers are dying overseas in cities that few can spell, and for causes that fewer understand, these voters ignore our country’s deadly wars.

They ignore the dangerous abyss between the wealthy and the poor. They ignore the unemployment figures. Instead, they quiz candidates on abortion: gauging acceptance for incest, fetal abnormalities, and rape. The successful candidate will nix all rationales.

At the same time, this confederacy loathes government and its greedy arm, the IRS. They want to shrink Uncle Sam, depriving him of the money that fuels his profligate ways.

The paradox, however, hovers: Can you sanctify life and save money? I think not. If pro-lifers want to sanctify life, they must extend concern beyond the literal birthday. Being pro-life costs little: some banners, letters to the editor, time out from work. Extending concern afterward – being pro-child – is much costlier.

Imagine another kind of seamless garment. Imagine that Uncle Sam has overturned Roe v. Wade, and that state legislatures have outlawed abortion.

State legislatures have already erected roadblocks, including requirements that women receive information about ultrasound (not considered medically necessary), that women undergo waiting periods (difficult if the woman lives far from the clinic), that insurers not reimburse the cost. But imagine that a pro-life Uncle Sam has taken charge and truly blocked abortions.

Some women will go overseas, or seek out illicit clinics. But imagine we make that difficult. We will have saved all the fetuses. Since more than a million abortions happen each year – 22% of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) - that constitutes a lot of babies.

Now that Uncle Sam has saved them, Uncle Sam has become in effect their godparent – literally, since the voters urging repeal of abortion laws claim divine inspiration. Consider the responsibilities of this governmental godparent. First, gather up all the infants born with conditions that will necessitate intensive medical care. Today some parents, after genetic testing, will abort these fetuses. But in a brave new Republican world, these babies will be born. Some may live short, painful lives. Others may live longer, but they will not outgrow their illnesses.

Generally parents cannot care for these children without extensive help. Some children will need hospitals and group homes. The godparent-government must see to it that all these children get comprehensive, state-of-the-art care.

Now gather up all the infants born from rape and incest. Their mothers rarely want a reminder of the trauma. These infants will go into the custody of the state. They will need social workers to oversee foster care and, perhaps, adoption.

A lot of mothers seek abortions because they cannot see how they can afford a child. Forty-two percent of women seeking abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level; 60% already have at least one child. Here the godparent has a clear role: income support.

These babies will need subsidized health care, subsidized day care, subsidized housing, food stamps.

Furthermore, a diligent godparent should make sure that these children, born to impoverished families, don’t end up in substandard crowded schools. These children should attend top-notch schools, and live in safe neighborhoods. Being a godparent will be expensive.

But, paradoxically, this pro-life bloc has vowed not just to save fetuses, but to cut support for the fetuses they save.

Holding high the “stop abortion” banner, they have held just as high another banner: “lower taxes.”

They pledge less money for health insurance, housing, food, education, transportation, hospitals, group homes. Name a service: they generally want to cut it. Hardly a benevolent godparent, more like an evil stepparent.

Joan Retsinas is a sociologist who writes about health care in Providence, R.I. Email

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2012

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