It was intended to seem a big deal, and I guess in some ways it could be.
The proposal to give the governor’s office final say on Medicaid funding for abortion was sent to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk a couple weeks ago. The pro-life Branstad has said he’ll sign it, although he hadn’t yet gotten around to it by late Friday.
If he does, Branstad would become one of the country’s first, if not the first, state executives to serve as abortion arbiter-in-chief.
It’s a job he never asked for, and one for which he is supremely unqualified. It’s a little like appointing me grand inquisitor of knee replacements, which is to say it’s a stupid idea.
It’s also a meaningless one. An eleventh hour ideological trophy for conservative lawmakers to bring home to constituents. One that won’t make a dent in the number of abortions performed in the state.
Medicaid reimbursements for abortions already are heavily restricted to cases of rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or where the mother’s life is at stake.
The few cases that qualify already are subject to review before funding is approved or denied.
Providers are long used to the uncertainty of reimbursement, the necessity of scrounging for funding to make up for a bureaucrat’s “No.”
All this bill would do is take that review away from the relatively knowledgeable Department of Human Services and place it in the hands of an elected official. A funny idea, coming from the folks who coined the term “death panels” and gave us nightmares about some gray-suited bureaucrat sneaking into hospitals to pull the plug on grandma.
And it’s either shortsighted or astonishingly arrogant, depending on how you slice it.
Unlikely as it may sound, Branstad won’t hold his post forever. The odds are pretty good that a good number of his successors will be pro-choice, or at least agnostic as far as abortion is concerned, politically and personally. That’s where public opinion is heading, after all.
The day is coming when the abortion issue no longer will work as a political lightning rod; when policymakers have burned up all their credibility and squandered public attention through ridiculous stunts like this.
Recent polls show that while the American public still is evenly split about whether abortion is moral, fewer and fewer people think its regulation is a priority.
Simply put: There are better ways to reduce the need.
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