By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Feb. 5, 2002
On Thursday, the Bush administration enacted a controversial new policy that has pleased pro-life organizations and angered abortion rights activists. According to The Associated Press, the new law says, "States may classify a developing fetus as an 'unborn child' eligible for government health care."
The health care to be provided is through a state-funded program called the Children's Health Insurance Program. Previously, funding from CHIP could only be received by children of low-income parents. But under this new policy, states can decide whether a fetus can also be classified as a child, in which case, aid from CHIP can be extended prior to birth.
The policy is a politically brilliant move. It does nothing to restrict abortion rights, but simply offers women another alternative to having an abortion by easing their financial responsibility.
While those on the left would normally champion a program that gives aid to the poor, many aren't so thrilled about this one. The primary reason seems to be what many have labeled as an ulterior motive of President Bush to indirectly denounce abortion.
Of all the organizations that label themselves as pro-choice, Planned Parenthood may be among the most conflicted over this plan. On one hand, they should be happy about pregnant women receiving additional health care, as the organization specializes in providing women with medical and counseling services during pregnancy. On the other hand, they may see the plan as Bush's first step in outlawing abortion.
There are, however, other abortion rights groups that have already decided that they are dead set against the new policy. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said last week, "At the point you establish a fetus is a person under the law, then even first trimester abortion becomes murder, and the Bush administration knows that."
NOW isn't the only group that is upset. Laurie Rubiner of the National Partnership for Women and Families said, "If they're interested in covering pregnant women, why don't they talk about pregnant women? I just have to believe their hidden agenda is to extend personhood to a fetus."
First of all, there's no hidden agenda here, Laurie. It's no big secret that George W. Bush is a pro-life proponent. It's not something he's talked about very much as president, but we all know it to be true. Obviously, Bush wants to see fewer abortions in America. This is a way to do it without infringing on the right to have one.
Second, if Bush enforced a law that specifically covered pregnant women, aid would cease once their childen were born. But under this law, health care will continue for the child even after it is born.
Besides, I thought the pro-choice movement was about giving women the right to choose, not necessarily encouraging abortion. In the states that choose to enact this policy, fewer women will likely choose to have abortions, but at the same time, the right to have one will not be restricted in any way. I fail to see what's wrong with this.
It's quite possible that, in his second term, Bush will have the opportunity to nominate a couple of pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade. But that's a separate war to be waged later.
In the meantime, there's no doubt that this new law brings us all the way back to the most fundamental questions: Do privacy laws include the right to an abortion? Is it a woman's right to choose? And most important, when does life begin?
The ideological gap between pro-choicers and pro-lifers is enormous. Those who are pro-choice see abortion as a matter of women's rights, and see those opposed to legalized abortion as being anti-woman and anti-progress.
On the other hand, pro-life individuals don't see abortion as an issue of the rights of women at all, but rather about the right of - in their view and admittedly, mine as well - an unborn child to be born and to live. They see opposition to this view as cold and inhumane.
Both arguments are entirely legitimate. But it's hard to see eye to eye on an issue when both parties are looking in opposite directions.
With that said, pro-choicers should be happy with the new policy. With more financial support, pregnant women will have more options at their disposal than they did without CHIP funding.
Let's all lighten up for a while and recognize that this law in itself can be nothing but positive.