Obama’s healthcare bill and abortion

March 27, 2010

Hi there,

Occasionally readers ask us why we don’t cover the abortion debate more extensively. The answer is that we deliberately steer away from it. First of all, it is extremely well covered on blogs and websites of all sizes and persuasions. There is almost nothing we can add. Second, it is such an inflammatory topic that it tends to squeeze out discussion of other bioethical issues.

However, personally speaking, I regard abortion as not just one more bioethical issue, but the main one. It is the single bioethics issue which affects nearly everyone personally, either because they have had one, facilitated one, or known someone who has had one. It shapes perceptions of human personhood and human dignity and influences our priorities for healthcare.

This was overwhelmingly evident in the acrimonious and prolonged debate over President Obama’s healthcare bill. Had he and his allies in Congress not insisted on including support for abortion, perhaps Americans would have had the mental space for an extensive debate on other fundamental human rights issues linked to the bill, like health care for illegal immigrants. Until we "solve" abortion, bioethics will continue to be a battleground rather than a building site.

Michael Cook


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