Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Abortion "neutrality" and healthcare-funding legislation

In recent posts here on MOJ, one question that has been discussed is whether the Stupak & Nelson amendments are "abortion neutral."  Putting aside (for now) interesting conversations we could have about what, exactly, it means for a particular piece of legislation or a particular funding program to be "neutral" -- with respect to abortion or anything else -- I wanted to register, for what it's worth, my view that the possibility that these amendments are *not* "abortion neutral" -- that is, the possibility that they result in a *reduction* in the amount of federal funds for abortions, or in the financial and other incentives that law and policy create to procure abortions -- would certainly not be a reason to oppose the amendments, nor would it be a reason not to insist that professedly pro-life legislators (Republicans and Democrats) support the amendments. 

I take Bob's point that a pro-life legislator who otherwise supports the Democrats' healthcare-funding proposals (and, certainly, a pro-life legislator need not support these proposals) could conclude that it is not necessary to filibuster those proposals if the proposals are, in fact, "abortion neutral" (whatever that means).  But, I also think (and I imagine that Bob agrees with me) that a pro-life legislator ought not to regard "abortion neutrality" as the end-game of (let alone a constraint on) his or her efforts.

A law or policy could be non-neutral with respect to abortion -- in the wrong way, i.e., in the sense that it undermines the cause of protecting unborn children -- even if it does not directly fund abortions.  The practice of abortion in this country is embedded in a legal regime that is "bigger" than just funding questions.  And, a healthcare-funding proposal could shore up that regime, it seems to me, without allocating directly more money to paying for abortions. 

One of the things I like about Stupak / Nelson is -- wholly and apart from the question whether they are, in fact, "neutral" with respect to "how much public funds go to abortion" -- is that they point the law's pedogogy in a pro-life (non-"neutral") way.  They "send a message" that abortion is not worthy of funding.  It is good that such a message be send.

UPDATE:  The USCCB thinks that the Nelson Amendment is abortion "neutral". 


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