As Representative Pence ably demonstrated yesterday, in the sunset of House GOP opposition to healthcare reform (the bill passed with only one Republican vote, final text here), the GOP plans to build its healthcare endgame around the rhetoric of coercion:
The health care bill forces you to do X; it mandates Y; etc.
Set aside for a moment the question of how, exactly, an opt out public health care option forces anyone to do anything, ever. There’s only one party in this debate building their health care agenda around a desire to alter private behavior. And it’s not our guys.
As part of a compromise to see the bill to a successful conclusion, conservatives of both parties proposed and passed, along sectional lines, an amendment barring any public money from being used to pay for an abortion.
We can debate the morality of abortion until we’re blue in the face. But the simple fact is this: anti-abortion legislation, or legislation that prevents access to the same, constitutes an attempt to modify behavior by restricting options, plain and simple. The Stupak Amendment is a blatant attempt to use the power of the purse to prevent poorer women from exercising their full constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
Nothing about the “public option” is coercive. By its very nature it provides, rather than restricts healthcare options. But morality-based restrictions on a government entitlement program are coercive, and are, in this case, aimed at preventing the exercise of a right that, regardless of its controversial status, remains grounded in constitutional law.
Choice is the essence of freedom, and the responsible exercise of available choices ought to be a question of good citizenship, not mandated morality. Yesterday, in passing the Stupak Amendment, a bipartisan coalition of reproductive rights foes legislated towards the morality of the few, rather than the liberty of the many. Don’t let them somehow claim the moral high ground.