Politics & Policy

Her Dysfunctional Argument

In Senator Boxer's reasoning, not covering abortion is gender discrimination, plain and simple.

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Denying women taxpayer-funded abortions is just like denying men taxpayer-funded aphrodisiacs. Such is the mantra of Sen. Barbara Boxer, abortion-rights heroine.

For Boxer and her feminist sisters-in-arms, one aspect of the health-care debate is about gender discrimination, plain and simple. And with every Viagra commercial run on MSNBC, it must get hotter and hotter under their Ann Hand eagle brooches.

Boxer was arguing against the amendment to the Senate health-care bill proposed by Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Orrin Hatch that would prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion.

On the Senate floor, Boxer complained: “There is nothing in this amendment that says if a man some day wants to buy Viagra, for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider.”

Boxer argued: “The men who have brought us [the Nelson-Hatch amendment] don’t single out a procedure that is used by a man, or a drug that is used by a man, that involves his reproductive health care . . . ”

She went on to say to the men who form the majority of the Senate: “I support a man’s privacy just as I support a woman’s privacy. So it is very clear to me that this amendment would be the biggest rollback to a woman’s right to choose in decades.”

But this isn’t a mere issue of individuals’ privacy. Abortion and Viagra are totally different things — and, if you’re being honest, it doesn’t matter whether you have moral qualms about one or both of these to see that plain fact.

“Senator Boxer must surely know the difference between what Viagra produces and what abortion produces,” says Dr. Donna J. Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The use of Viagra involves a few short-term risks to the person who ingests Viagra, but abortion not only results in a dead baby, but also in increasing the mother’s risk of pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies, and increasing her risk of suicide, major depression and substance abuse.”

Boxer’s comparison does not hold up at any level. “Male impotence is a disease,” Dr. Kathleen Raviele, immediate past president of the Catholic Medical Association, points out. “Pregnancy is not a disease; it is a normal process by which the human race is perpetuated.” She adds: “Abortion is not health care.”

Dr. Harrison continues: “Senator Boxer’s flippant comments are typical of the denial of pro-choice activists to face the evidence-based medical realities of abortion’s effects on women, not to mention the complete ignorance of the moral effects of taking an innocent human life.”

Actually, Dr. Harrison has one thing wrong: Boxer was not just being flippant with the Viagra comparison. She may not come out and say that pregnancy can be considered a disease, but she will tell you abortion is health care. This is the syllogism used by supporters of legal and now to-be-socialized abortion: Health care must be provided by the government to all. Abortion is health care. Therefore, abortion must be covered in the government-run health-care program.

The abortion supporters are angry not just because of Nelson-Hatch and a similar prohibition/protection amendment (depending on your point of view) that passed in the House of Representatives and may just be in the final bill. There is pent-up frustration bursting forth. Boxer and her sisters are venting right now over existing restrictions that they deem an evil compromise, restrictions that, they screech, are unfair to women because men can’t get pregnant and therefore have no equal impediment to their reproductive rights.

But is it shameful to respect the consciences of Americans who oppose abortion as a human-rights issue? Viagra comparisons can’t change that. And sonograms remind pregnant women every day that there is something different about a pregnancy, something that involves a whole new life.

Of course, Drs. Harrison and Raviele are not the only American women declining to buy the Boxer/NOW gender-discrimination line. Assuming Sen. Boxer survives next year’s reelection fight, she may have some female pushback in the next session of Congress. “They are trying to go through the back door because they simply cannot win on an up-or-down vote,” Jane Norton, former lieutenant governor of Colorado, tells me on the Senate’s defeat of Nelson-Hatch. Norton, who is running for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Michael Bennet, says, “I am pro-life,” and tells me: “For Democrats to try to expand abortion services in the health-care bill is unconscionable.” She adds: “Twice, the voters of Colorado have said ‘no’ to taxpayer dollars for abortions.” As senator she would “represent the views of the people of Colorado — unlike Senator Bennet,” who voted against Nelson-Hatch.

Even though groups like NOW want to convince legislators that they represent the common woman (and man), they don’t. Norton’s is not a fringe view. As Dr. Raviele points out: “The majority of Americans are now opposed to elective abortions.” Technology, testimony, and experience make it harder to assert that abortion is just another medical procedure. And that’s the real reason Senator Boxer is so pumped up about her dysfunctional comparison. In the spirit of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, government interference may be her last resort.

Copyright 2009, Kathryn Jean Lopez. Distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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