Madison Lahey (USA, UWC AC 2011-2013)
On October 13, 2011, the House of Representatives, one of the two legislative bodies of the United States government, passed H.R. 358, dubbed the ‘Protect Life Act.’ This bill would prohibit women from purchasing health care programs that receive federal funding to cover abortions. This means that a woman would not be able to receive financial help for an abortion (except in severe cases, such as rape, incest, or the life of the mother) from the government. She would be prohibited from buying a health care plan that covers abortion even if she was not planning to get an abortion. The Protect Life Act also includes a conscience clause, which allows doctors or hospitals that have a moral objection to performing abortions to deny a woman an abortion even if she is dying and an abortion could save her. Previously, doctors have faced prosecution for denying dying women abortions. This act would eliminate that prosecution—but could also be seriously harmful for a dying woman who needs an abortion.
My first reaction to this bill was outrage. I dislike infringement by the government in what I view as a woman’s decision during the course of her pregnancy. What right do others have to interfere with that decision? The conscience clause particularly bothered me—the idea that a woman who wants an abortion to save her life could be denied it was disturbing. As I thought about it more, I became angrier. This bill was passed by people who have a moral issue with abortion, which I respect. However, this bill doesn’t actually address the moral question of abortion. Abortion is a legal right in the USA, and Congress does not have the power at this time to take it away. What this bill does is take away a woman’s accessibility to an abortion—but it does not affect all women: Only those who would need financial help to get an abortion are affected. So the bill seems a discrimination against lower-class women, women who cannot afford to pay for an abortion out of their own pockets. That is more infuriating still, since lower-class women are statistically more likely to seek an abortion. What will their alternatives be? A furtive abortion attempt with a hanger in a dark alley with drugs for the pain and the hope of not bleeding to death on the street? How could the politicians up on Capitol Hill not foresee this consequence? And what right do they have to sit around and rule over people’s lives?
Those were my questions. They are still with me, just as my principles regarding this topic are still with me. However, my anger no longer propels my own views to the forefront of my mind with the exclusion of all else. There are two sides to this bill, and there is a reason why every single one of the 242 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to pass this law. First of all, doctors should have some legal protection if they follow their own moral obligations in good faith and refuse to perform an abortion. I might not agree with their moral reasoning, but I do recognize that many people are strongly opposed to abortion. I still believe that doctors should have a responsibility to do whatever they can to save a dying person, even if that means aborting an unborn child, but if there are other doctors on hand who can take over the task there will not usually be a conflict with this bill. The issue would arise if a woman is unable to find a doctor who will help her and dies because of it. Yet the number of situations when this would happen is likely to be small. With regards to the removal of federal funding for non-extreme abortions, there are valid reasons for it. Some women get a shocking number of abortions, with extreme cases showing 40 or 50 abortions in one lifetime. There are also instances of women using abortion as a form of self-injury, which is incredibly harmful and unhealthy. Removing the financial incentive for multiple abortions could decrease the need for abortions and prompt women to take care of themselves in different, healthier ways. The number of abortions performed now wouldn’t all be translated into back-alley abortions—-a good portion would disintegrate into better methods of avoiding unwanted pregnancy, which would improve women’s health overall.
In truth, this bill will not pass through Congress and become law. When this was written, H.R.358 had not reached the Senate, but the second legislative body will almost certainly vote against the bill. So why is the bill even being discussed? Because it reflects a deep divide in a major social issue in the United States right now. I dislike the government limiting a woman’s ability to exercise her legal right to an abortion and interfering with her life on such a personal level. I am surprised that so many of our representatives felt that they had the responsibility or right or need to pass this bill. Its passage in the House shows just how split the parties in Congress are, and how unwilling they are to compromise.
-United Words team-