This week, the Village Voice used the ominous word "bold" to describe a plan of New York City's new Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The plan they were describing was Bloomberg's Blueprint for Public Health, which calls for tax-funded abortion training to be an aspect of the city's hospitals.
Specifically, the campaign document demands the integration of "medical residency training in abortion care into the Health and Hospital Corporation network of OB/Gyn programs." It suggests Medicaid recipients should not be sent to managed-care plans that do not provide tubal ligations, better known as "tube tying," and abortion. And it requires "all hospitals to offer emergency contraception as a protocol of care for victims of sexual assault."
It is not clear whether Catholic hospitals will be permitted to opt out.
The Village Voice used another frightening word: "groundbreaking." New York City may become the first city in the United States to institutionalize tax-funded abortion training in public hospitals.
The abortion issue has been lost in the din of overwhelming Sept. 11 angst. But all signs indicate Bloomberg is deadly serious about using tax money to finance abortion. Certainly, pro-choice voices take him seriously.
The National Abortion Rights Action League released a statement on Oct. 29 supporting Bloomberg's position. Lois Backus, executive director of Medical Students for Choice, praised him as "brave." She added, "No other publicly funded system has had the courage to say, 'We're going to spend our tax dollars pursuing this priority' ..."
I am pro-choice. But my purpose in this article is not to argue for "a woman's body, a woman's right." My purpose is to reject the policy of making other people financially support the personal choices women make with their own bodies. Even as a woman who supports the legality of abortion, I am not willing to personally or publicly finance the procedure because of the severe moral reservations I harbor. It is unconscionable to make pro-life taxpayers finance what they believe to be the slaughter of innocents.
I believe the pro-life side has won the abortion debate in North America precisely because pro-choice advocates insist on tax funding, in one form or another, for abortions. That position is both morally insupportable and legally imprudent.
Key to the legal issue is the question, "What is the purpose of law in society?" The law should protect the person and property of every individual — in short, it should protect individual rights and preserve the peace. This contrasts sharply with the view that law should preserve virtue, such as laws against blasphemy. The distinction between "the legal" and "the moral" is that individuals should have the right to do what they wish with their own person and property, regardless of whether or not those actions are "moral."
Morality is a matter of individual conscience, not of law. As such, in any picket line that comments on Bloomberg's proposed tax funding of abortion, I'll be standing on the pro-life side. Moral choice should not be embedded into law through government support.
How likely is Bloomberg to act on his proposal to pioneer tax-funded support of abortion?
Consider who is on Bloomberg's NYC transition committee. On Nov. 11, a National Organization for Women press release announced NOW's Legal Defense Fund President Kathy Rodgers had been named to Bloomberg's team.
What sort of assistance does Rodgers offer? According to The Washington Post: "Rodgers said her group is prepared to file discrimination lawsuits if it discovers that women are being shut out of New York's recovery, but it is hoping to avoid litigation. If lawmakers make sure women can participate in job training programs, secure contracts and have access to services such as child care, she said, there would be no need to go to court."
Such a cynical opportunist may not even see moral implications in imposing an abortion agenda through tax money.
What impact would the success of the New York City abortion agenda have on a national scale? Other cities will almost certainly follow suit. In response to the New York plan, Kate Michelman, president of NARAL said, "Already we're talking about how this might translate to other cities."
Moreover, an estimated one out of seven American doctors is trained in New York, and this would dramatically increase the general availability of abortion providers. On this point Michelman adds, "Over the past 10 to 15 years, there's been a concerted effort by anti-choice groups to intimidate medical schools into eliminating abortion training," thus decreasing abortion providers.
One of the reasons tax-hungry pro-choicers are applauding Bloomberg's abortion plan is because public funding of abortion care has been declining. Pro-life advocates will almost certainly oppose any attempt by government to forcibly reverse this social trend. For one thing, some of the medical schools that will be impacted are associated with the staunchly anti-abortion Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Pro-lifers are already suggesting that assigning Medicaid recipients only to abortion providers and requiring emergency contraception for victims of sexual violence would discriminate against Catholic hospitals.
In short, New York City may become another abortion battle zone. This battle will be cast as one over abortion when, really, it is over whether government should finance the moral choices women make with their own bodies. On this issue, I must stand with pro-lifers and say, "no."
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the forthcoming anthology Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.