Monday, March 22, 2010

Federal Funding of Abortion

The issue of abortion is heated and on going. At the moment, abortion is legal but a new stipulation to the issue has arisen with President Obama’s health care reform plan. The gist of the President’s bill is general health care expansion, which would in turn allow insurance to cover abortion costs. This article discusses the opposing views of the Catholic Church regarding this bill because of alternative interpretations of it. Nuns have said that they support the bill because despite their opposition to abortion itself the bill benefits the majority and would be an overall good for the country. Bishops on the other hand, along with Michigan’s Democratic representative Bart Stupak, see the bill as making abortion more accessible due to federal money, including taxes paid by those that see abortion as against their religion.

Should those opposed to the health care reform put aside their personal issues for the greater good of the country? Or would allowing public funds to aid abortion be hindering the free exercise of religion, forcing many Americans to pay taxes to a cause against their beliefs?

Although the Catholic religion is not united in their opposition of the health care reform, I do believe it is unconstitutional to provide tax money to a cause that violates so many Americans religious views. The issue here can be related to that in the case of Lynch v. Donnelly, in which Pawtucket residents found it unconstitutional for their taxes to go towards the building and up keeping of a nativity scene. The court ruled that this was not unconstitutional and if I remember correctly, the majority of the class, myself included, disagreed with this decision due to a lack of apparent secular purpose. In contrast, the health care reform definitely has a secular purpose but the issue of abortion, and in Lynch the crèche, makes it offensive to practitioners of certain religions. The Establishment Clause protects American citizens from providing aid to religious causes they do not support such as parochial teaching in secular schools, seen in McCollum v. Board of Education, and I believe Free Exercise is meant to protect Americans from having to pay taxes that go against their religion, as is the issue here. Representative Stupak and the traditionalists did not use this free exercise argument to support their opposition to the bill but I believe they constitutionally could have. I am pro-choice and I believe in Obama's health care reform, but that does not take away from the underlying religious issues concerning abortion. It is unfortunate that it may generally be the case that those in greatest need for the services of an abortion clinic will not be able to afford it and will now not be able to turn to their insurance for help. But that is where our education systems need to come into play and step up in their part of teaching and enforcing safe sex.

In the end, as described in this article, President Obama ordered that no money from passage of the health care bill will be used for abortion, swaying the bishops and Bart Stupak to support the health care reform. I believe this was a good move by the President and necessary to protect American citizens taxes from working against their religious views, beliefs, and practices.


Christa L said...

Why should abortion in the healthcare bill be different from evolution in the public schools? People who don't support the public school system ideologically, either because evolution is taught in the public schools, because public schools have an "anti-religious" bent, or because of some other religious belief, those people still have to pay taxes that support those public schools. Religious pacifists still have to pay taxes to support the military. At the moment, ideological disagreement is not a tax exemption.

In Epperson v. Arkansas, in referencing McCollum v. Board of Education, the Court said that the state cannot aid any religion ideologically... "the State may not adopt programs or practices... which 'aid or oppose' any religion... This prohibition is absolute. It forbids alike the preference of religious doctrine or the prohibition of theory which is deemed antagonistic to a particular dogma." Granted, this case ruled against an anti-evolution law. However, it is still the case that the State cannot aid religion or preference religious doctrine. In other words, you can't choose not to pay taxes for nonreligious reasons, why can you choose not to pay for religious reasons? Isn't that giving preference to religious doctrine over nonreligious doctrine?

Rob K said...

While I agree with the original post that it is unfortunate that many people will now be forced to financially support a practice that is offensive to their religion, this is no new trend in American tax policy. As the first comment states, the public school evolution issue and other similar ones continue to fuel heated debates, but just because these people still have to pay now does not mean that there is no valid argument against this policy. Luckily, President Obama mandated that no federal money should go toward abortion financing, so there is not much of an issue in this circumstance. I think that the Jessica makes a good point that the Free Exercise argument can be used to dispute these taxation policies, and I would not be surprised to see some attention given to this in the near future.

Justin M said...

For the most part the issue of Federal money being used to provide abortions is now a smaller issue because of the executive order, signed by President Obama, capping the amount of Federal money given to abortion clinics. The interesting part of this issue is the stance of the Catholic Church. It is a well known fact that the Catholic Church has historically been a large proponent of health care reform in the United States. However, the issue of abortion has been a sticking point for many members of the Church. My question is at what point do you accept some forms of compromise to further your overall goals? In the end the Church didn’t have to drastically confront this issue because of the cap on funding. However, from a utilitarian perspective I don’t see the logic behind completely derailing the larger goal of providing health insurance to millions of more citizens simply because a few extra tax dollars would have been given to abortion clinics. In this sense, it is interesting to note that the Catholic Church was not unified on which of its beliefs should predominate in this case.