Freedom to Confuse

Thanks to the abortion amendment, liberals suddenly care about "choice" in our health care system.

If liberals are so disturbed by Congress' dictating whether abortion is a legitimate health care issue or not, it only makes sense that they should be equally troubled by government management of other health care decisions.

Undoubtedly, this is zealously naive thinking on my part. Reaching such a conclusion demands a modicum of consistency. And as we've seen, health care "reform" is an ideological crusade immune from logic.

Take the torrent of hypocrisy that spilled from the jilted pro-choice wing of the Democratic Party after a House amendment to the health care reform bill that would tighten a ban on federal funds for abortions passed by a vote of 240-194—a more substantial mandate against abortion funding, incidentally, than for health care reform.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), immediately began collecting signatures to oppose what she called "an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women's ability to access the full range of reproductive health services to which they are lawfully entitled."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), went further, adding that the amendment "attempts an unprecedented overreach into women's basic rights and freedoms in this country."

Overreach? Unprecedented? Basic rights? Freedoms?

Right words, wrong issue.

I have no doubt that members of the progressive wing of Congress—folks who generally support a single-payer plan that would eradicate choice and freedom in health care—believe that government's failing to give you something is indistinguishable from government's taking something away from you.

Yet even though no one would be stripped of her right to have an abortion under this legislation, the vast majority of citizens would have to deal with a cluster of new mandates and more than 100 new government bureaucracies to enforce them.

Citizens would be ordered to buy insurance or face jail time. Americans would answer to a "commissioner of health choices" and pay extra taxes for having the gall to buy top-of-the-line insurance plans. They no longer would have the right to choose health savings accounts or high-deductible plans or, in most cases, flexible spending accounts.

That's just for starters.

Accordingly, DeGette, DeLauro, and all who voted for America's Affordable Health Choices Act (sic) should refrain, for credibility's sake, from evoking "choice" or "freedom," as they voted against those principles this past week.

President Barack Obama attempted to quell this mounting problem when he told ABC News that Congress should alter the language on abortion because he had "laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill."

Candidate Obama, on the other hand, clearly stated in a speech in front of a Planned Parenthood Action Fund meeting in 2007 that "reproductive care is essential care" and "basic care, and so it is at the center and at the heart of the plan that" he proposed.

So abortion not only is essential care but also was at "the heart" of what the president had in mind for reform. (A courageous reporter might ask the president where he stands on reproductive care today. Is it essential? If not, why should federal funding be banned?)

When DeGette tells The Washington Post that 40 Democrats will vote against a final bill unless the abortion amendment is removed, she is only holding the president to his word—however rickety his word and her logic may be.

I must concede, then, that there is a bright spot within this debate. If reform were to die on DeGette's selective "choice" and "freedom," it would save, ironically enough, many genuine choices and freedoms in our health care system.

It would be a splendid irony, indeed.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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