Health Care Reform Must Exclude Abortion
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
September 2009

According to the Catholic bishops of the United States, the current health care system is in need of fundamental reform. Efforts to include abortion funding and mandates, however, threaten to derail genuine reform. Interestingly, we faced this problem before. I wrote the following column in January of 1993 for the Inland Catholic. It is reprinted here with permission from the Diocese of San Bernardino.

One of the ways evil slips into our society is by attaching itself to our attempts to do good. This happens when we accept legislation supporting abortion in an attempt to provide better health care.

Our health-care system needs reforming, and we should work to reform it. Most reform proposals, however, include abortion funding or access as part of a mandated health-care package. As a result, even those who profess to recognize that abortion kills unborn children will tolerate it an an attempt to reform health care. Such actions are defended in a variety of ways. Each defense, however, ignores the reality of abortion.

Some argue that abortion is health care and that we cannot, therefore, insist on its exclusion in a basic health-care package. Abortion, however, is not health care. It is the killing of unborn children. It is no more a part of legitimate health care than genocide. There mere fact that others call it health care does not mean that it is or that we have to accept it as such. We must always remember that the fact that abortion kills is an objective truth that public opinion cannot alter.

Some argue health care must include abortion because excluding it would deny poor women the same access to services available to wealthy women. This argument strikes a chord with our Christian desire for justice and fairness. There are, however, two flaws to the argument. First, it is premised on the belief that everyone should have equal access to everything, including non-essential and non-health related services. However, common sense tells us that we do not and cannot have a right to everything. The second flaw of the argument is that it devalues life by implying that the denial of an ability to kill is a greater wrong than the killing itself.

Some people think the law prohibits distinctions between abortion and health care. This is not true. It is well-established law that government may favor child birth over abortion and can refuse to fund abortions. Further, it is well-established that government can choose to fund one type of health care -- accepting for the moment that abortion is health care -- while not another.

Some argue that supporting imperfect legislation is acceptable. This is true. However, imperfect legislation is that which furthers a good without completely eradicating an evil and without furthering an evil. Thus, it is permissible to support legislation prohibiting some but not all abortions. However, it would not be permissible to support legislation prohibiting some abortions while providing greater access to others. Including abortion in health-care reform is not an example of permissible imperfect legislation since, although it would further the good of health care, it also would further the evil of abortion.

Some argue that we do not have the option of arguing for the exclusion of abortion services. On the contrary, we have an option -- health care without abortion. Nothing requires us to accept the two options supporters of abortion provide us, i.e. health care with abortion or no health care.

Some argue that, given the current political climate, we cannot succeed with health-care reform unless we compromise and accept abortion. There is, however, no justification for compromising the lives of unborn children. Furthermore, if the current political climate makes exclusion of abortion services unlikely, then we, especially those who desire health-care reform, must work to change the political climate.