Thursday, October 18, 2007

Right To Life or Right to Be Born?

As you know, Bush recently vetoed legislation that would have expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to more children- namely for middle class children who do not qualify for Medicaid but whose parents cannot afford private insurance. These are children who are left behind- and, it's an age-old story in this country. If you're super poor you get government benefits. If you're wealthy, you don't need the benefits because you can pay for them on your own. Well, there are a lot of people in-between those two extremes. But that, perhaps, is a story for a different day.

Today, I want to talk about the SCHIP expansion bill in the context of a "pro-life" organization that is against the SCHIP expansion.

The National Right To Life Committee (NRLC), an anti-abortion group, originally opposed this legislation and is now taking a neutral stance. As writes:

"The NRLC tagged the earlier House SCHIP bill with a “key vote” designation, thereby tarnishing the “pro-life” credentials of lawmakers who voted for it. The group is neutral on the new SCHIP bill. Ryan suggested that an NRLC endorsement would be enough to tip the scales in favor of overriding Bush’s veto."

In essence, if the NRLC were to endorse this bill, politicians would feel confident in overturning Bush's veto because they wouldn't have to worry about being labeled "anti-life" or "pro-choice."

Upon reading this article, I wanted to learn more about the NRLC. Was it some kind of contradiction for this pro-life group to oppose legislation that would improve the lives of many children? Observe the mission statement of NRLC:

The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense.

I think that many pro-lifers essential argument is this: all life should be born because of the single important fact that a living thing is alive.

Embryos should live because they are alive even if forcing a woman to give birth would cause the woman hardship [or insert pro-choice argument].

Stem cells should live because they are alive even if using them for research would ease suffering of some human beings.

Brain-dead human beings should continue to live because they are alive even if their quality of life is negligible.

You get it.

And so the rights of some not-yet-fully-human living things to be born trumps the rights of living human beings to end that life. Even if the not-yet-fully-human living thing is part of the living human being and depends on the living human being for survival.

Even if the life to be ended, in other words, is not fully human.

Life, you see, is paramount.

Until one is actually alive.

And that is why it is not a contradiction for the NRLC to oppose expanded SCHIP legislation. Their mission is clear: to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The subtext of this mission is also clear: Fetuses and embryos should be considered "innocent human life" so abortion will be illegal.

They are so focused on protecting not-yet-full-humans that they will oppose or remain neutral on legislation that would benefit real, living children. Somehow, legislation guaranteeing health coverage for living children does not fit within the mission of "protection of innocent human life."


Have they forgotten that these sacred fetuses will someday, like Pinocchio, turn into real boys and girls? Or that real boys and girls are born everyday in an underinsured nation?

While they broadly champion for the rights of fetuses and embryos and life and unicorns and rainbows, others are left to make policy decisions in the real world.

Who, really, is completely comfortable with abortion or ending life? And, while it would be ideal if every potential human life was able to grow into a human being because of the single fact that it's a potential human life, isn't it time to stop thinking about "life" in such simple terms? Shouldn't all these fetuses who are born at least have guaranteed health care once they are born?

And more generally, doesn't quality of life matter at all?

I think a name change is in order for the "Pro-Life" Movement.

It could be more accurately called the Pro-Birth Movement.

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