Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Jim Wallis's America the Passive Voice* Fucks You**

Lets not argue about who killed Health Care Reform! It was obviously those faithless pro-choice people who faithlessly failed to negotiate in good faith with the faithful.

This is an alarming turn for the worse from several months ago, when both pro-life and pro-choice advocates recognized that health insurance reform would be difficult enough to achieve without injecting the old culture wars into the debate. Because health-care reform was so important to key people on both sides of the abortion debate, they agreed to the principle that existing legal precedents should be applied, and that neither side would use the health-care debate to advance its abortion agenda. While it was clear that some political groups were anxious to use this divisive issue to try to kill health-care reform, a number of both pro-life and pro-choice leaders were very committed to it and decided to seek common ground.

I believe there were some sincere early efforts by leaders on both sides to abide by what became known as "abortion neutrality." But somewhere along the line, the process broke down. Instead of building on the initial common ground of neutrality and bringing both sides together to hammer out compromises, many pro-life Democrats felt excluded from the conversation about how abortion would be addressed in the bill. Ultimately, they felt they were presented with a final "compromise" on abortion drafted by a predominantly pro-choice committee. Although the Capps Amendment was meant as a good faith effort to find common ground, it was drafted and finalized without enough substantive input from the pro-life community, and it failed to address many pro-life concerns. (In several situations, it even made things worse instead of better.)

Unfortunately, from that point forward, mistrust grew, and the rhetoric and battle lines became more pronounced. Capps might have been a fruitful starting point for dialogue and a first step toward a workable compromise. Instead, those shepherding the bill made public statements that Capps had "taken abortion off the table" and was the best the pro-life community could hope for -- take it or leave it. In response, some in the pro-life community cried foul and claimed this process demonstrated why they could never trust the pro-choice Democrats. Both sides accused the other of "moving the goal posts," "violating neutrality," and threatening to sabotage needed health-care reform if they didn't get exactly what they wanted on abortion.

*Semantics Police in Comments corrects me. Edited to change "Passive Tense" to "Passive Voice." My Bad.

**And after a hospital bed conversion during which I decided to stop swearing, too! I blame fucking Jim Wallis for dragging me back.

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