Following a week of ferocious public opposition and a withdrawal of support by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, state Republican lawmakers backed off of a bill that would have required women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion. For most abortions, that meant women would have to submit to an invasive transvaginal ultrasound to determine the age of the fetus. McDonnell acknowledged on Wednesday that “no person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”
So a rare win for common decency in the always-heated political fight over abortion rights. But although conservative attempts to restrict abortion tend to receive the most media coverage, it’s worth noting that progressives are known for imposing their own agenda to guarantee access to abortion on demand.
The most recent example comes from Washington state, which has long been favorable to abortion rights, even before Roe v. Wade. Now the state House is considering a new bill that would require health insurance providers who offer maternity care to also cover abortions. The intent of the law is to avoid running afoul of Federal accounting rules that took effect under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), meant to ensure Federal funds aren’t used to cover abortions. Lawmakers fear that insurance companies will simply drop coverage for abortion rather than deal with the more complex accounting rules.
The irony here is that the Washington bill represents the lesser of two evils; the Obamacare requirement is arguably worse. It mandates that everyone enrolled in a health plan that provides abortion services pay into a separate fund, taken from their premiums, to cover only abortions. Unlike the Washington bill, which allows a “conscience exemption” for insurance providers if they object to abortion coverage, the enrollees subject to Obamacare rules must pay into the separate abortion fund whether they’re a man, a woman, or have no plan to ever get an abortion. This is no more justifiable than the state requiring doctors to violate their patients before performing an abortion.
I am pro-choice, but I recognize that many people (including a lot of libertarians) oppose abortion on moral grounds. Forcing them to pay for a procedure they consider to be murder is at least as offensive as forcing those of us opposed to war to pay for Predator drones to kill civilians. And in general there’s a problem with trying to guarantee a positive right to any medical procedure, as it means someone must be forced to provide it. The proposed law in Washington is a stark reminder of that reality.
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