Church and state

Column: Are we paying for other people’s abortions?

by Michael Schuttleoffel

According to a 2009 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans now identify themselves as pro-life — the first time this has been the case since Gallup began asking the question, and a dramatic change from 1995 when only 33 percent of respondents embraced the pro-life label.

In those intervening years, pro-life initiatives and candidates have met both failure and success, but the arithmetic of public opinion will ultimately decide this question. And it is here that the needle continues to move in the right direction.

But do not say inexorably. Though the final triumph of good over evil is dogmatically assured, Catholics would be wrong to assume that the end of abortion in America is a historical inevitability. We are all summoned to continued toil in this vale of tears, for it is human agency that will continue to shape our national destiny. Ben Franklin put it thusly: “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

In the fall, a strong display of voter agency will be needed to respond to new federal policy under which death and taxes will be inextricably linked. After nearly a year of unremitting debate, Congress has approved the health care legislation promoted by President Obama.

Despite the polls and the pleas of pro-life voices, the congressional leadership insisted upon an approach condemned by the nation’s Catholic bishops for opening wide the door to federal funding of abortion that has been mostly closed for 30 years. This will not bring healing to America’s divisions.

A strikingly similar debate is occurring in the Kansas Legislature. Just
as pro-life legislators in Washington, D.C., are arguing that no one should have to pay for someone else’s abortion with their tax dollars, so pro-life legislators in Topeka are arguing that no one should have to pay for someone else’s abortion with their health care premiums.

Unbeknownst to many Kansans and their employers, insurance companies often provide abortion as a standard component of health coverage, meaning those abortions are paid for with the premium payments of everyone in the plan. This means that you may be paying for other people’s abortions simply by providing your family with health insurance.

In February, Kansas House members attempted unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would have prohibited this practice and required future customers of “abortion services” to pay an extra premium for an abortion rider. Predictably, some Catholic legislators voted against it.

We are often told that abortion is a private matter between a woman and her doctor. This might be true were there not a third party to the proceedings — the unborn child — and were ordinary Americans not continually asked to violate their consciences by subsidizing the culture of death each time they pay the monthly bills.

About the author

Michael Schuttloffel

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