Published Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:40 pm
E.J. Dionne Jr.: Ire over maternity care not sensible

If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their children into the world? In particular, wouldn’t you hope they’d get the proper medical attention during and after their pregnancy?

This would seem a safe assumption, which is why it ought to be astonishing that conservatives are positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies to include maternity coverage.

Never mind that all of us lucky enough to have health insurance end up paying to cover conditions we may never suffer from ourselves. We all want to avoid cancer, but we don’t begrudge those who do get it when the premiums we pay into our shared insurance pools help them receive care.

Yet critics of Obamacare apparently think there is something particularly odious when a person who might not have a baby pays premiums to assist someone who does. It’s true that men cannot have babies, although it is worth mentioning that they do play a rather important role in their creation. In any event, it is hardly very radical to argue that society is better off when kids are born healthy to healthy moms.

Yet the conservatives’ ire over this issue knows no bounds.

“And so what if a health policy lacks maternity care?” wrote Deroy Murdoch on National Review’s website, the italics on that impatient “so what” being his. “Not all women want to bear more children — or any children at all. ... And how about lesbians who do not want kids and are highly unlikely to become pregnant accidentally?”

It’s touching, actually, to see such concern for lesbians in a conservative publication. Behold the miracles Obamacare already has called forth.

On “Fox News Sunday” earlier this month, host Chris Wallace was very worked up as he pressed Zeke Emanuel, a former health care adviser to President Obama, over how unfair it is that a single woman with a 24-year-old son would be forced to pay for such coverage. “She’s not going to have any more children,” Wallace said with great certainty. “She’s not going to need maternity services.”

Writing on the FreedomWorks website, Julie Borowski declared, unhappily: “Maternity coverage will be mandatory — even for men. ... Adding coverage for things that some people do not want will only increase insurance costs for everyone.”

Well, not exactly. But you get the drift. Who knew that supporting motherhood was suddenly controversial?

All of which ought to present members of the right-to-life movement with a challenge. In the name of consistency, they need to break with their conservative allies and insist that maternity coverage be included in all health care plans. Shouldn’t those who want to prevent abortion be in the forefront of making the case that a woman will be far more likely to choose to have her baby if she knows that both she and her child will get regular medical attention?

For too many politicians on the right, what they say about abortion is at odds with what they say about so many other issues. They speak with great concern and compassion for the unborn, and I respect that. You don’t have to support making abortion illegal to think that there are too many of them in the United States.

To their great credit, some right-to-lifers really do follow the logic of their position and support expanded health coverage, food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children feeding program and other measures that help parents after their kids are born. This reflects a consistent ethic.

But many other conservatives would make abortion illegal and leave it at that. Thus we have the spectacle in Texas of right-wing politicians trying to make it as difficult as possible for a woman to obtain an abortion while proudly blocking the state’s participation in the expansion of Medicaid to cover the near-poor. Does it serve the cause of life to keep more than 1.8 million Texans from getting health insurance?

President Obama apologized last week after all the criticisms of what’s happening in the individual insurance market. But where is the outrage over governors and legislators flatly cutting off so many lower-income Americans from access to Medicaid? The Urban Institute estimates that 6 million to 7 million people will be deprived of coverage in states that are refusing to accept the expansion.

If health coverage — yes, including maternity care — isn’t a right-to-life issue, I don’t know what is.

Contact the writer: ejdionne@washpost.com

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