Health Care and Coercion

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.


  1. tommoriarty · ·

    The house has passed a health care bill.

    There will be a revolt, one way or another.

    Best Regards

    1. There is a revolt, and you are seeing it happen. Eventually our republican form of government will do what it is supposed to do, but has neglected under years of a “laissez faire” approach of the rich getting better access to health care as if it was a luxury.

  2. Ugh.

    It’s time to repeal Hyde, yesterday.

  3. I agree with you that the Stupak amendment is an abomination, as was its predecessor Hyde, as is the general unwillingness of the defenders of abortion’s fundamental liberty to use adequate measures to protect it and enforce its availability. However, for reasons I’m having second thoughts about expounding upon again, I think it’s misleading to pinpoint that one provision as an example of “legislat[ing] towards the morality of the few, rather than the liberty of the many” since all the provisions forcing expanded insurance coverage and establishing subsidies for insurance purchase (in other words, the whole damn bill) is just that: legislation towards the morality of the few who believe in positive rights and who believe strangers’ lives matter.

  4. “…the bill passed with only one Republican vote…”

    You might, just for the sake of being fair and balanced, mention that plenty of Democrats voted no as well. The Big Tent is falling.

  5. You do delight in these counterfactual narratives, don’t you? The big tent is standing strong and, for healthcare at least, that’s the problem. You don’t see the moderates being drummed out of the party to join the Republican big tent pup tent small tarp held up by sticks palmetto-branch-slanted-against-a-rock, do you?

    1. Ames, as bright as you are and as good a soldier you are for Obama, your biggest weakness has always been the fact that you drank the Kool-Aid and you refuse to admit to missteps.

      Where you all have screwed yourselves is the way you have created conditions where at least one faction in your party will pay for what happens with health care. Blue Dogs are voting against healthcare now with increasing boldness because they know it’s an albatross in their districts. They don’t want it and they know they will get hung for it while folks like Nancy Pelosi will be safe in their seats. On the flip side, if there isn’t some kind of reform, the base is going to be pissed and there’s a chance a good portion of them will stay home next November, which puts seats up for grab.

      Poll after poll after poll shows that the public’s primary concern is the economy / jobs. Democrats have wasted at least 6 months on an issue that was probably a C priority for the majority of voters, especially the Independents that put Obama in office. Now you look at Democrat approval ratings and they are falling. Republicans are winning elections again (and after some on the Left claimed a permanent majority just a year ago). In addition to healthcare, Congress has also wasted time on cap & trade and there are more and more reports coming in from state and local governments about how ineffective the stimulus bill has been in creating jobs. The simplest way to describe Obama’s first year has been, “misplaced priorities”.

      The best thing you all could do for yourselves right now would be to run Pelosi out of her seat. In lieu of that I don’t know how you salvage healthcare without burning some of your Big Tent members.

  6. That’s a damn sad story you’re painting there. Too bad (1) Obama’s poll numbers have been stable or increasing since September and (2) the only group with lower numbers that Democrats are Republicans. And they’re lower by A LOT.

    Make no mistake: VA/NJ were flukes attributable to bad campaigns or bad personalities. Obama and Democrats may be vulnerable, but who’s going to take them out? Your guys? Please.

    1. Ames – you really don’t comprehend what libby libs like yourself gave up with that House bill do you? And you really don’t understand how it will play in conservative districts if it passes.

      VA and NJ weren’t the only elections last week. You need to dig a lot deeper.

  7. BerlinCitizen · ·

    Off-topic: Today (~ 2009-11-09 04:30 UTC) I tried to access “” from a “Yahoo Cafe” at Tokyo Narita Airport, but it was blocked. I couldn’t read the error message, but the Cafe staff explained to me that it is blocked “due to safety” and maybe there is a virus. If other readers experience similar problems (from around the world) then maybe someone hacked your blog and put a virus online here. (…or your blog is censored in Tokyo?)

    (I apologize if this off-topic posting does not interest anyone.)

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