May 28, 2024

Obama’s healthcare bill and abortion

March 27, 2010

Hi there,

Occasionally readers
ask us why we don’t cover the abortion debate more extensively. The answer is
that we deliberately steer away from it. First of all, it is extremely well
covered on blogs and websites of all sizes and persuasions. There is almost
nothing we can add. Second, it is such an inflammatory topic that it tends to squeeze
out discussion of other bioethical issues.

However, personally
speaking, I regard abortion as not just one more bioethical issue, but the main
one. It is the single bioethics issue which affects nearly everyone personally,
either because they have had one, facilitated one, or known someone who has had
one. It shapes perceptions of human personhood and human dignity and influences
our priorities for healthcare.

This was
overwhelmingly evident in the acrimonious and prolonged debate over President
Obama’s healthcare bill. Had he and his allies in Congress not insisted on
including support for abortion, perhaps Americans would have had the mental
space for an extensive debate on other fundamental human rights issues linked
to the bill, like health care for illegal immigrants. Until we “solve” abortion, bioethics will continue to be a battleground rather than a building site.

Michael Cook