How to Talk about Health Care Reform and Abortion without Being a Jerk

My friend Josh Brahm of the excellent Life Report Podcast asked me this question:

“If you were going to chat with your pro-choice friend about this bill, how would you talk about it in a way that shows compassion for poor people, but still condemns forcing people to pay for abortions?” (Note: listen to the most recent podcast from Josh and crew for a helpful discussion of this question.)

Here’s one suggestion, in dialogue form:

PL: Well, I guess they passed the health care bill, didn’t they?

PC: Guess so.

PL: Did you have a strong opinion about it?

PC: I’m pretty much for it. I think all the controversy is really overblown. I mean, even Republican congressmen agree that health care needs reform. It seems to me that getting Americans insured is a step in the right direction, especially since anyone can get treatment at any emergency room in the country. Isn’t it best for them to have insurance to help pay for that?

PL: I agree that there are some thorny issues there. I’m not sure I know which solutions are best. I think it’s a real problem that health care costs are so high, and I’m also concerned that some people can’t get the care they need.

PC: Then you were for the health care bill? I thought you were a Republican!

PL: Well, I do sometimes identify more with the Republican party, but I don’t really think of things in terms of parties and political teams. I try to think of things in terms of principles. That’s actually why I can’t support the health care bill.

PC: What principles are you talking about?

PL: Well, I’m NOT talking primarily about big government versus small government or not wanting to have to pay for poor people to get health care. I tend towards small government and using other means to get poor people the medical care they need, but I think if the only way to help the poor (or to fix health care) is the current bill, I’ll support it. What I can’t support is the fact that this bill treats abortion as health care.

PC: What else could it be?

PL: Well, I agree that abortion is usually done in medical clinics by medical doctors. And I agree that abortion relates to the reproductive health of women. So, I think it’s understandable that many people see abortion as health care. But if the unborn from fertilization onward is a whole living human being like you and me, and abortion kills him, then isn’t it odd to call that health care?

PC: I think you’re entitled to your religious opinion about the fetus, but I don’t see how we can make policy based on religious opinions.

PL: I’m confused. Can you help me see how claim that the fetus is a whole living human being is a religious opinion?

PC: It’s not that fact that’s religious. It’s the basis for your argument. You are religious aren’t you…and that’s why you are so against abortion, right?

PL: I think every person who cares about human rights should care about abortion. Do you care about human rights?

PC: Of course. But that’s irrelevant. The only rights involved in abortion are the woman’s.

PL: So, in your view, what is the unborn?

(etc.)

Note, I didn’t even tackle the issue of abortion funding directly. I chose in this dialogue to simply deal with the root problem of treating abortion as health care. I could easily take the conversation in the direction of abortion funding in this way:

PL: Well, I’m NOT talking primarily about big government versus small government or not wanting to have to pay for poor people to get health care. I tend towards small government and using other means to get poor people the medical care they need, but I think if the only way to help the poor (or to fix health care) is the current bill, I’ll support it. What I can’t support is the fact that this bill treats abortion as health care and funds abortion with taxpayer dollars.

PC: But isn’t abortion obviously health care? It makes sense to me that something done in a medical clinic by a medical doctor to preserve the health of women is medical care. And the only way for the poor and needy to get that care is sometimes through government funding. It’s the only way to make things fair.

PL: Well, I agree that abortion is usually done in medical clinics by medical doctors. And I agree that abortion relates to the reproductive health of women. So, I think it’s understandable that many people see abortion as health care. But if the unborn from fertilization onward is a whole living human being like you and me, and abortion kills him, then isn’t it odd to call that health care?

(etc.)

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