Friday, May 14, 2010

Abortion-Only Laissez-Faire?

A principle is an abstract concept that can literally be applied to a potentially unlimited number of concrete issues. When one announces explicit adherence to a principle, he offers to others a firm yardstick by which to evaluate one's loyalty to that principle as it relates to his position on many issues. One way to evade that scrutiny is to simply deny that principles exist ... i.e., to declare that there are no absolutes. Absolutes do exist, of course, but denying them rationalizes evasion. That way, when confronted with someone who names the essentials underpinning one's opinion on some concrete issue, that person can simply evade the responsibility of refuting the other's argument.

This is the usual liberal mindset. Electing politicians to rob your neighbor to pay for your healthcare is not the same as you burglarizing your neighbor's home to pay for your healthcare because, well, there are no absolutes. Robbery is not robbery if you call it democracy.

So the Left-leaning NJ Star-Ledger offered a welcome surprise when it opened an editorial by boldly proclaiming a principle in defense of its opposition to a new Oklahoma abortion law. It states:

"Anyone concerned about keeping government from getting between doctors and their patients should be upset about what happened last week in Oklahoma."

The specifics of the law are not my primary concern in this post. But to briefly review the legal issue here, I qoute from the Star-Ledger:

"Republican legislators overrode their Democratic governor’s veto to pass a law forcing a woman who chooses abortion to first undergo an ultrasound of the fetus. The law requires her doctor to describe details of the image and turn the screen so the patient can view it."

I do believe that a provider of abortion services has an ethical obligation to see that his patient has all relevant information concerning the procedure and its consequences that she is considering, just as with the seller of any other product. Viewing an ultrasound of the fetus she is about to abort provides relevant information, and so a case can be made that the doctor's patient should understand fully that the fetus she is considering terminating is a developing human being - her own child. Just as with the condition that the hero of Atlas Shrugged imposes on those who join his rebellion against tyranny, it's never good to fake reality in any manner whatever.

I don't believe, however, that it should be mandated by law. A woman has a right to decide for herself, and the doctor has the right to set the terms and conditions of his own practice. Should a woman view the ultrasound, either by her own choice or as a condition for having the abortion? This is clearly a matter between a doctor and his patient.

But that is beside the main point I want to make here. The Star-Ledger has consistently promoted all manner of government interference into healthcare, including its recent loud support for ObamaCare. By boldly proclaiming that government should not be "getting between doctors and their patients", it (unwittingly?) opened up its entire range of opinions on healthcare to scrutiny as it relates to its stated principle. And make no mistake, the national debate on healthcare rests squarely on the question of the doctor-patient relationship.

I seized on the Editors' opening statement of principle, and posted the following commentary.

Posted by zemack
May 05, 2010, 8:32PM

Suddenly, the Star-Ledger supports a free market! Or do they? The Editors write:

“Anyone concerned about keeping government from getting between doctors and their patients should be upset about what happened last week in Oklahoma.”

Exactly!! And “Anyone concerned about keeping government from getting between doctors and their patients” should also be concerned about plenty of other medical issues.

The FDA routinely blocks doctors from writing prescriptions for, and their patients from receiving, promising experimental drugs not yet approved by that agency. Now, if ever there were an example of “government … getting between doctors and their patients”, there it is on a massive scale.

How about the 60-year-old woman who is forced to include maternity care coverage in her health insurance policy because of a state insurance mandate, even though she can no longer have children? There are thousands of such benefit mandates nationwide, with NJ being the worst offender. Now there is an example of government getting between the insured and her health insurer. How about eliminating all mandates and interstate trade barriers, and instituting HSAs for all individuals and families, so that the healthcare consumer can buy a policy that fits his needs and budget, directly from an insurance industry liberated to tailor individual policies according to market realities rather than politically connected special interests demanding mandates?

How about the third-party-payer, or employer-based, system which either ties you to your job for the sake of health insurance, or strips you of that coverage if you lose your job? Now there is an example of the government coming between you and your health insurance.

How about Medicare, which last year refused to cover virtual colonoscopies for people who paid Medicare taxes all of their working lives? Or how about an elderly family member of mine who is suspected of having cancer, but the tests are inconclusive? Her oncologist wants to prescribe an advanced type of diagnostic test called a PET scan which he says will conclusively establish the existence or nonexistence of the cancer, but Medicare refuses to allow it until – are you ready for this? - cancer is already confirmed! Now there are two more instances of “government … getting between doctors and their patients.”

How about ObamaCare, which vastly expands the government’s power to dictate who gets what healthcare when and at what price, and turns insurers into mere conduits for government-approved policies?

The fact is, the Editors have no problem with government getting between the patient and all manner of healthcare providers in all areas of medicine, except where the termination of a pregnancy is concerned. Then, a woman has an unfettered right.

Well, fair enough. I agree with the Editors on the abortion issue. Leaving aside the specifics of the Oklahoma law, I agree with the principle that the abortion decision is an exclusive matter between the doctor and his patient that government should not interfere with. The Editors boldly pronounce that “Anyone concerned about keeping government from getting between doctors and their patients should be upset about what happened last week in Oklahoma.” Well, government interference is definitely a concern of mine, which is why I support a free market across the healthcare board. But not the Editors, whose concern about abortion rights rings hollow.

Only a massive dose of evasion and self-deception can cause the Editors to fail to see that their very same laissez-faire logic in the Oklahoma case applies to all areas relating to healthcare.

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