Friday, March 16, 2012

"Government to shut down Texas women's health program"

Reuters recently had a story entitled Government to shut down Texas women's health program. The opening paragraph states:

"The Obama Administration on Thursday said it would begin shutting down a program that provides health care for more than 100,000 low-income women in Texas because the state will not allow funding for clinics that provide abortion services."

Essentially, the Obama Administration will not provide federal funding for this health program that serves low-income women, due to a Texas law prohibiting any of that money from going to clinics that perform abortions, even if the money is not paying for abortion itself (as that is against federal law). Federal law requires that the women benefiting from the federally-funded program have freedom of choice in what clinics they will visit, and the Obama Administration believes that Texas is undermining that with its new law. Consequently, the Obama Administration is cutting off federal funding for the program, even though the "federal government pays about 90 percent of the [program's] cost".

Texas Governor Rick Perry has committed himself to finding money so that the program can continue, saying: "It is the height of political posturing for the Obama Administration to put the interests of abortion providers and their affiliates, like Planned Parenthood, over the well-being of more than 100,000 low-income Texas women...I will not stand by and let this administration abandon these Texas women to advance its political agenda...Texas will fund these services with or without the federal government."

I have problems with the Obama Administration's decision, for I think that women's access to health care should be paramount. But isn't Texas undermining that by restricting the clinics that women can visit? Perhaps, but what good does it do for the Obama Administration to cut off funding altogether? Who's helped by that sort of policy? But perhaps the Administration can't do much else, since it has to follow the law.

Notwithstanding my reservations, I find the reaction of many conservatives to Obama's policy to be ironic. Many conservatives believe that the states rather than the federal government should handle health care, and a number of conservatives who are Christians maintain that charity is something that should be handled by the church, not the federal government. So shouldn't they be happy about the Obama Administration's decision? Instead, they claim that cutting off federal funding will destroy the program. But, if they believe that federal funding is necessary to support the health of low-income women, doesn't that undercut their entire argument that the federal government's involvement in health care is neither necessary nor desirable, and that the state and the private sector are sufficient to handle the issue?

I think that one thing that has been illustrated by this and other incidents is that government money entails government control. Conservatives have long claimed this, and we are seeing it before our very eyes. We see it in this case (in the policies of both President Obama and also the Texas legislature and Rick Perry, who themselves are attaching conditions to government money), and also when the government chooses not to give money to Catholic adoption agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples. The problem is, can these programs exist without government funding? I wish they could. But my impression is that health care is too expensive for the private sector on its own to be able to support health care programs for the low-income. Plus, many people (in my view) are too selfish to support these programs on a private basis, and I include a lot of churches in this.

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