Category Archives: Abortion

I’m Complex. Is That OK? (Part 2 of 2)

See here for Part 1.

PRICE CONTROLS AND TAX INCREASES

When the government limits by law what can be charged for health care, it limits what people are allowed to pay for health care. While everyone would prefer to pay less–or nothing–for health care (as for everything else), government price controls in fact prevent access to life-saving medical treatment that costs more to supply than the price set by the government. The same is true when price controls are imposed on what people are personally permitted to pay for health insurance.

(25) Would you oppose legislation that would impose price controls on health care?

NO

(26) Would you oppose legislation that would impose price controls on health insurance premiums?

NO

Maybe to both of these, depending on the specific legislation. Even before ObamaCare, over half of all health care in the U.S. was paid for by the government. As a result, we do not have a free market, so the law of supply and demand doesn’t work properly. For various reasons, there is little likelihood of the U.S. moving toward a freer market for health care, so the only real way to manage costs is with some market controls. Price controls are one method among several, and I am not willing to discard it.

A majority of Americans receive their health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan. Under current law, apart from the Excess Benefits Tax discussed above, what employers spend to obtain health insurance is not treated as taxable employee income. However, some have proposed to impose federal taxes on some or all of these insurance premiums, making it significantly harder to obtain adequate health insurance and, in effect, imposing a new tax on working Americans.

(27) Would you oppose legislation that would raise federal taxes on health insurance premiums?

YES

(28) Regardless of your answer to the preceding question, would you oppose and veto legislation raising taxes on health insurance premiums above a limit if that limit was not indexed to medical inflation?

(italics in original)

YES

Members of Congress do not have veto power, so I do not know why the question is phrased in that manner. My preference, instead of dealing with issues of price controls and tax rates, would be to move toward a single-payer government-provided health care system, or a hybrid system where the government provides basic services to everyone and premium services are available through an open market.

ADVANCE CARE PLANNING

Effective beginning in 2016, the Obama Administration has directed that Medicare funds pay health care professionals to provide “advance care planning” to senior citizens in which they are asked if they want to execute advance directives that limit or reject the life-preserving health care they will be provided. As documented in National Right to Life’s report, “The Bias Against Life-Preserving Treatment in Advance Care Planning,” available at http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/advancecareplanning/advanceplanningbias2015.pdf, in practice advance care planning typically uses unbalanced, distorted and often inaccurate information in an acknowledged effort to “nudge” those subjected to it to reduce health care spending on them by getting them to forego life-preserving treatment and assisted feeding and fluids.

(29) Would you support legislation to require the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure that advance care planning paid for with federal tax dollars neutrally assists beneficiaries to implement their own values and health choices, rather than using unbalanced information and counseling that pressures them into agreeing to reject life-preserving treatment and assisted living?

YES

I try really hard to not be a hypocrite. If I want complete and unbiased sex education for students, I cannot deny the elderly complete and unbiased advance care planning information.

The Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act (S. 2297 and H.R. 4059 in the 114th Cong.) would help offset the widespread efforts to “nudge” people to agree to forego life-saving treatments. It would give Medicare beneficiaries and others online access to a website with state-specific model advance directives that choose life-saving treatment, food and fluids equally with those that reject them. It would require that certified online providers of advance directives provide access to the website and provide only forms that comply with relevant state laws, and in cases of dispute over treatment, give family members access to the patient’s actual advance directive, allowing them to dispute claims that the patient didn’t want life-saving treatment.

(30) Would you vote for the Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act?

NO

Yes, but I’m not happy with section (8) of the bill:

“(8) ACCESS IN CASES OF DISPUTE OVER TREATMENT.—Under the Program:

“(A) SPECIAL ACCESS.—The Secretary shall establish a process whereby, with respect to a beneficiary with a certified advance directive, a person described in subparagraph (B) may obtain access to the beneficiary’s advance directive for the purposes of viewing and sharing such advance directive when—

“(i) the provisions of the advance directive have come into force under the applicable State’s law because the beneficiary has become incapable of making health care decisions or under other circumstances provided under State law; and

“(ii) at least one person described in subparagraph (B) is questioning or disputing the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of medical treatment, food, or fluids with respect to the beneficiary.

“(B) INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS.—A person described in this subparagraph, with respect to a beneficiary, is—

“(i) any individual who is a member of any class of persons who, under the applicable State’s law, would potentially be eligible to serve as a health care decision maker for the beneficiary if an advance directive had not been executed regardless of whether higher priority for such eligibility would be accorded to another individual or individuals; and

“(ii) if the applicable State’s law does not designate persons or classes of persons described in clause (i), any person related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to the beneficiary.

I have seen too many cases where people do not trust their family members–justifiably–to make decisions about their financial or medical care. A proper living will designates a person or persons to make decisions in part to keep others from interfering. Section (8) opens the door to interference, and I cannot support that. The rest of the legislation is excellent.

POLITICAL SPEECH, GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY, AND RIGHT TO PETITION

President Obama, and some members of Congress, have pushed for enactment of legislation (such as the so-called “DISCLOSE Act”) that attempts to discourage donations to organizations (such as NRLC) that comment on the actions of elected federal officials, by requiring the publication of the identities of donors to such organizations. Such restrictions would harm organizations engaged in advocacy on contentious issues, because many businessmen and others would be deterred from supporting advocacy organizations for fear of harassment, abuse, or boycotts by people who do not share their political opinions.

(31) Would you oppose enactment of any legislation that would curb the right of private citizens to support advocacy organizations without being “outed” by the government?

NO

“Any.” See my explanation after the next question.

In its January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of corporations (which includes nonprofit corporations, such as NRLC) to spend money to express viewpoints regarding those who hold or seek political office. Subsequently, President Obama, and some members of Congress, have advocated adoption of new restrictions to discourage corporations from exercising this right–for example, by telling corporations that if they engage in constitutionally protected speech on political matters, they will lose other rights.

(32) Would you oppose any legislation that would penalize corporations, including nonprofit corporations such as NRLC, for engaging in the types of free speech that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are protected by the First Amendment?

NO

“Any.” Citizens United is an abomination that has allowed money to flow unrestricted into political campaigns. I hesitate to restrict free speech, but there are severe structural issues when millions of anonymous dollars are spent to influence political campaigns. I have not studied the issue in depth enough to have ideas on potential solutions, but the status quo is unacceptable.

The federal Lobbying Disclosure Act is a law that already requires organizations that lobby Congress to report, on a quarterly basis, all of the legislative matters on which they contacted members of Congress or Executive Branch agencies, but the law does not require the reporting of specific lawmakers or officials with whom they communicated. In January 2010, President Obama urged Congress to adopt legislation under which every contact between lobbying organizations and lawmakers would be reported into a publicly accessible database. NRLC believes that such “contact reporting” is an infringement on the First Amendment right to petition government officials, is exceedingly burdensome, and serves no legitimate public policy purpose.

(33) Would you oppose any legislation that would require members of Congress or Executive Branch officials to report, into a public database, contacts they receive from an advocacy organization such as NRLC, or that would require an advocacy organization such as NRLC to report its contacts with individual elected officials?

NO

“Any.” I will record any contacts I receive from advocacy organizations, corporations, lobbyists, and individuals who are not residents of my Congressional district in a searchable database. I do not believe organizations should have to report contacts themselves. If other members of Congress have something to hide, that is between them and their constituents.

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold), the Federal Election Commission promulgated new rules on defining what constitutes illegal “coordination” between candidates (including incumbent members of Congress and incumbent presidents) and citizen groups. The rules specifically do not require that there be “formal agreement or collaboration” with a member of Congress or other candidate in order for an expenditure by a citizen group or political action committee to be a “coordinated expenditure” and thus a campaign “contribution.”

Under the loose new definition of “coordination,” citizen groups and PACs that communicate with Congress on legislative matters and also conduct independent expenditures are at risk of being unintentionally “coordinated,” thereby making their independent expenditures illegal campaign “contributions.”

(34) Would you support regulatory reforms and/or new legislation to reestablish that “coordination” means only a formal agreement or collaboration on a specific project between a candidate and a citizen group or PAC?

NO

Maybe. I think requiring a formal agreement takes things too far, as a handshake deal can accomplish the same thing. I don’t want unintentional coordination to be punished, if it is truly unintentional, so some refinement is likely needed.


Questions (35) on the Supreme Court and (36) on the CEDAW treaty are for Senate candidates only. I am not in favor of picking Supreme Court justices based on their opinions on any one issue. CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) is an obvious sore spot for NRLC because of its requirements for access to family planning services. I would have to review CEDAW in detail to see if I would support it.


There you have it. If there are any additional questions you have on my positions on abortion or health care, feel free to leave me a comment. If any other organizations want to know my positions, please contact me.

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I’m Complex. Is That OK? (Part 1 of 2)

I received a packet from the National Right To Life Committee asking for my views on various aspects of the abortion and health care debates. The phrasing of the questionnaire is interesting, to say the least, but I will answer all of their questions as best I can. Their questions will be in block quotes, with my answers following. Note that I will use “pro-life” to describe groups opposed to abortion and “pro-choice” to describe groups supporting reproductive rights, because those are the terms they call themselves.

Fun with questionnaires!

Fun with questionnaires!

Note: Due to the length of the questionnaire I have split this into two posts. For the TL;DR version of today’s portion, please scroll to the bottom.

ABORTION

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) believes that unborn children should be protected by law, and that abortion should be permitted only when necessary to prevent the death of the mother. Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe that abortion should be legal?

(a) Only to prevent the death of the mother (the NRLC position),

(b) To prevent the death of the mother, or in cases of rape reported to a law enforcement agency, or incest against a minor reported to a child abuse agency.

(c) Other (please explain):

(c) It’s complex. In a perfect world, I could see coming close to supporting (b), but we are nowhere near a perfect world. I would prefer that abortion not be used for contraception, but I also don’t believe that we should necessarily force rape victims to report crimes to a law enforcement agency. Obviously, society would be better off if all sexual assaults were reported, but that’s not always realistic.

In my case, I had a friend who became pregnant as a result of a date rape. She feared repercussions, correctly, in my opinion, if she reported it (Fortunately, attitudes have dramatically improved since the 1990s). I helped her obtain an abortion, and I believe it was the correct decision. Because she did not want to get law enforcement involved, the only way she would be able to obtain an abortion is if abortion was legal. I do believe that abortion should be restricted, but not to the extent of (a) or (b). My answers to the questions that follow should clarify that position.

PLEASE NOTE: In every question below, a “yes” response indicates agreement with the position of NRLC.

ROE v. WADE and CASEY v. PLANNED PARENTHOOD

In its 1973 rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court created a “right to abortion” for any reason until “viability” (into the sixth month), and for any “health” reasons–including “emotional” health–even during the final three months of pregnancy. This ruling invalidated the abortion laws that were in effect in all 50 states at that time. In the 1992 ruling of Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the “core holdings” of Roe v. Wade, and said that any law placing and “undue burden” on access to abortion would be struck down.

(1) Do you advocate changing the Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions, so that elected legislative bodies (the state legislatures and Congress) may once again protect unborn children by limiting and/or prohibiting abortion?

For this and every question following, the NRLC wants a simple YES or NO. I will comply, but explain my answers.

NO

First, I think the definition of “viability” has changed significantly since 1973. The Supreme Court considered that to be 28 weeks. The current record for survival is 21 weeks, 5 days. At 25 weeks there is a 50-80% chance of survival. I would argue that viability has moved from during the sixth month to the beginning of the fifth month.

Second, the term “unborn children” is leading, in my opinion. The idea of life beginning at conception is a fairly recent development legally, really only arising in the mid-1800s. The legal standard was either formation of the fetus or the “quickening,” when the mother first feels the fetus move. There are many, many places to draw the line, with one extreme wanting to prohibit contraception and the other extreme, like Hillary Clinton, wanting abortion legal for the entire pregnancy.

I think the quickening milestone was a reasonable one, as it corresponds with the point at which higher brain function begins at between 22 and 24 weeks. As such, I could support strong restrictions on abortion, with exceptions only for the health of the mother and in cases of severely deformed fetuses, after the 20th to 24th week.

UNBORN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

In 2004, Congress enacted the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (Public Law 108-212), which recognizes a “child in utero” as a legal victim if he or she is injured during the commission of any of 68 federal crimes of violence. The law defines “child in utero” as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

(2) Would you vote against any attempt to repeal or weaken the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA), and will you support additional legislation consistent with the underlying principle that unborn humans should be recognized and protected as members of the human family?

NO

You had me, then you lost me. I would vote against any attempt to repeal or weaken the UVVA. The second part of that question is far too open-ended for me to support. There may be very good legislation to protect pregnant mothers, but it’s also possible to draft legislation ostensibly to protect “unborn humans” that goes too far.

ABORTION POLICIES

(3) Would you vote against any legislation that would weaken any pro-life law or policy that is in effect on the day you are elected?

YES

I would expect this Oklahoma bill to be enacted. I would vote for legislation that would counteract the ability of a state to revoke a medical license of a doctor who performed an abortion.

(4) Would you vote against any federal legislation that would place new limits on the ability of states to regulate abortion–for example, the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 217, H.R. 448 in the 114th Congress), sometimes referred to by critics as the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act,” which is successor to the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act”?

NO

I might vote against it. I might not. “Any” is very broad. Calling the “Women’s Health Protection Act” the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act” is almost comical, since the act quite clearly has limits, most notably that it allows states to place restrictions on most abortions after the point of fetal viability.

PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION ACT

There is now compelling scientific evidence that at least by 20 weeks the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain when subjected to abortion. On this basis, in 2010, Nebraska enacted the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to prohibit abortions after that point (with narrow exceptions), and a number of other states subsequently passed bills based on the same model. On May 13, 2015, similar national legislation (H.R. 36) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, but was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate on September 22, 2015. (A companion bill also was introduced in the U.S. Senate, S. 1553.)

(5) Would you vote for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, to strictly limit abortion from the point in development that evidence suggests an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain?

YES

The twenty-week mark isn’t unreasonable to me. I would prefer an amendment to the text of the Nebraska legislation to allow for a later abortion in the case of a severely deformed fetus, but this isn’t necessarily a show-stopper. I would prefer that the word “evidence” was preceded by “conclusive scientific” as well.

DISMEMBERMENT ABORTION BAN ACT

The Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 3515) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.). This bill is based on a model state bill proposed by National Right to Life, which was enacted during 2015 in Kansas and Oklahoma. The bill defines “dismemberment abortion” as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off…” This definition largely overlaps with what those in the abortion trade currently refer to as “dilation and evacuation” or “dilation and extraction” (D&E) abortions. This brutal method is commonly used starting at about 14 weeks of pregnancy and extending into the third trimester.

(6) Would you vote for the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act, to place a national ban on the use of dismemberment abortion?

NO

D&E is generally used after sixteen weeks. I am fine with firm restrictions on abortion starting after about twenty weeks, but since D&E is the recommended method after sixteen, I cannot support this. From what I have read, in most cases of D&E the fetus is anesthetized. The graphic description in the bill is fear mongering, which I oppose in any form on any issue.

GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES FOR ABORTION

On January 22, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). This bill would establish a permanent policy against funding abortions and health plans that cover abortions, consistent with the principles of the Hyde Amendment, to all federal programs, including those created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-148) (“ObamaCare”).

(7) Would you vote for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act?

NO

I believe the Hyde Amendment is too restrictive, for one, but I also believe that health plan providers should have some freedoms to cover and not cover some procedures. Much of the debate about this bill was over a perceived attempt to change the legal definition of rape. (Congressman Fleischmann was a co-sponsor of this legislation.)

Congress votes from time to time on the “Hyde Amendment,” a law that prohibits federal Medicaid money from being used to pay for abortions or for health plans that include abortion, except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. Other similar provisions of law restrict federal subsidies for abortion in certain other federal health programs, including those covering the military and federal employees (but, regrettably, not major components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“ObamaCare”).

(8) Would you oppose any legislation that would weaken the Hyde Amendment or other current laws that restrict federal subsidies for abortion, and would you support measures to ensure the fullest possible enforcement of such laws and application wherever appropriate of their underlying principles?

NO

Again with the “any.”

The District of Columbia is an exclusively federal jurisdiction. Article I of the Constitution provides that Congress must exercise “exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District. In December 2009, at the urging of President Obama, Congress effectively repealed a longstanding ban on government funding of abortions in the District. However, in April 2011, at the insistence of congressional Republican leaders, a prohibition was restored to prohibit any use of government funds for abortion in the District, whether designated as “federal” funds or so-called “local” funds (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). This issue will continue to arise during future congressional appropriations cycles.

(9) Would you vote to preserve the prohibition on public funding of abortion in the District of Columbia, applicable to all government funds however they are labeled?

NO

I am in favor of statehood for Washington, DC, or, alternatively, of returning most of the District to Maryland. The people of the District deserve to rule themselves, and every poll I can find suggests that the people of the District are overwhelmingly pro-choice.

The federal government annually provides many millions of dollars to organizations that operate abortion clinics. For example, affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) provide over one-third of all the abortions performed in the U.S., yet PPFA also receives over a half-billion dollars annually from government sources, mostly federal (including Medicaid and the Title X “family planning” program).

(10) Would you vote for legislation that would make organizations that perform abortions (other than bona fide hospitals), including Planned Parenthood, ineligible to receive federal funding, including federal Medicaid funds?

NO

The recurring passive-aggressive quotes are amusing. If you want to limit abortions, then cutting funding for family planning programs is going in the exact wrong direction. This is a case, in my opinion, where many of the anti-contraception views influence the pro-life positions of NRLC.

FOREIGN AID FOR ABORTION

The U.S. spends about $600 million annually for birth control programs overseas. Under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, executive orders collectively referred to as the “Mexico City Policy” established that in order to be eligible for U.S. population control funds, a private overseas organization must agree not to perform abortions (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest) or to “actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” However, in January 2009, President Obama overturned this pro-life policy by executive order. In congressional testimony on April 22, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Administration’s international policy is to “protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care,” and that “reproductive health includes access to abortion.”

(11) Would you vote for legislation to codify (enact into permanent law) the principles of the “Mexico City Policy,” that U.S. funds should not go to overseas organizations that perform or promote abortion?

NO

Current events drive my thinking on this one. The Zika virus is causing an epidemic of microcephaly in affected countries. I think it is reasonable for women to have abortion as an option if they wish to avoid having a severely developmentally disabled child. If, however, we were to also provide corresponding funding to help affected countries and parents provide adequate lifetime care for people with debilitating birth defects, I could see supporting this.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) participates in China’s population control program, which relies heavily on coerced abortion. The UNFPA also promotes expanded access to abortion in developing nations, and has promoted the abortion pill, RU 486. The administrations of Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush cut off U.S. funding to the UNFPA because of its role in China, but the Obama Administration restored U.S. funding to the UNFPA.

(12) Would you vote for legislation to prevent U.S. funding of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and to prevent any other disregard for, or weakening or repeal of, the 1985 Kemp-Kasten anti-coercion law, which prohibits U.S. funding of any agency that supports a program of coercive abortion?

NO

This is where being a single-issue organization hurts NRLC. The UNFPA is essentially an international mirror of Planned Parenthood. I agree that coercive abortions are reprehensible, and we should not fund such programs. However, in this case, I think we would be better off negotiating with China and the UNFPA on the issue instead of cutting funding completely. I think the best approach here might be to cut UNFPA funds in an amount equal to what the organization spends on abortions in China.

PARENTAL NOTIFICATION/CONSENT FOR MINORS’ ABORTIONS

Laws are already in effect in about half the states that require notification or consent of at least one parent (or authorization by a judge) before an abortion can be performed on a minor. However, these laws are often circumvented by minors who cross state lines in order to evade parental notification requirements (often with the aid of older boyfriends, abortion clinic staff, or other adults lacking parental authority).

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), (S. 404, H.R. 803 in the 114th Congress) would require any abortionist, encountering a minor client from another state, to notify one parent before performing an abortion, unless presented with authorization from a court, or in cases of life endangerment, or in cases of sexual or physical abuse or neglect by a parent, in which case the appropriate state agency must be notified instead of a parent. The bill would also make it an offense to transport a minor across state lines to evade a parental involvement requirement.

(13) Would you oppose weakening amendments to the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), and vote for the bill?

NO

We have a massive problem in this country called abstinence education. If lawmakers want to keep information about sex from students, then I am perfectly fine keeping information about teenagers wanting abortions from the parents who elect these people.

Teen pregnancies are highest in states with abstinence education. Abstinence education isn’t education at all. It’s teaching a certain flavor of morality to kids, while excluding teaching them information that they actually need…like how not to get pregnant. Most of the states with abstinence education laws are also the states with parental notification laws. Pregnant girls are traveling from states that actively keep information from them to states that provide the information and services they need. Unfortunately, they end up seeking this information when it is too late to prevent pregnancies. Get rid of abstinence education laws and start actually teaching kids and we will not only see a drop in teenage pregnancies and abortions, but I will be more open to discussions on parental notification.

CONSCIENCE PROTECTION

For many years, pro-abortion officials and advocacy groups have sought to use the compulsory powers of government to compel health care providers to participate in abortion. The Obama Administration has broadened the assault on conscience rights by issuing “ObamaCare” regulations that require employers (including religious schools and hospitals) to provide health coverage that will provide drugs and procedures to which the employers have religious or moral objections. In response, pro-life members of Congress have proposed the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919 and H.R. 940 in the 114th Congress), which would greatly strengthen the rights of private individuals and employers to refuse to participate in abortion or other procedures that violate their deeply held beliefs. Among other things, the bill would prohibit any government agency–federal, state, or local–from penalizing health care providers for refusing to participate in providing abortions, and which would allow health care providers to sue when subjected to such attacks from government entities.

(14) Would you vote for legislation, such as the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, to protect the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers and others, and advocate for vigorous enforcement of existing laws to protect conscience rights?

NO

The “and others” seems to me to be covered by the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. ruling, which gets my “NO” answer. As far as the rest of it, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell will likely cover that. Additional legislation seems redundant at this time.

SEX DISCRIMINATION

Some federal and state courts have construed laws that ban discrimination “on account of sex” or “on the basis of sex” as inconsistent with limitations on abortion or government funding of abortion. In addition, some U.N. agencies and other international bodies have adopted the position that limits on abortion are a form of gender-based discrimination.

(15) Would you oppose any legislation or regulatory actions that are based on claims that laws protecting unborn children are a form of gender-based discrimination, and would you insist on the addition of “abortion-neutral” language to any proposed federal statutes, regulations, or constitutional amendments that would mandate “gender equality” or that restrict distinctions on the basis of sex, to ensure that such laws or executive actions cannot be misused to advance pro-abortion policies?

NO

“Any” strikes again.

PROTECTION OF HUMAN EMBRYOS

The right to life of human beings must be respected at every stage of their biological development. Human individuals who are at the embryonic stage of development should not be used for harmful or lethal medical experimentation. This applies equally to human beings whether their lives were begun by in vitro fertilization, by somatic cell nuclear transfer (human cloning), or by any other laboratory techniques.

NRLC opposes harvesting “stem cells” from living human embryos, since this kills the embryos. This includes any human embryos who might be created by somatic cell nuclear transfer (human cloning) or other laboratory manipulations. Note: NRLC is NOT opposed to other research on “stem cells” that are obtained without killing embryos–for example, stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood and from adult tissue.

In 2001, President George W. Bush issued an executive order to prevent the federal government from funding research that would encourage the destruction of human embryos, and vetoed bills that would have overturned that policy–but in 2009, President Obama issued a new executive order that nullified the previous pro-life policy, which has allowed federal funding of stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos.

(16) Would you vote for legislation to prevent federal support of research or treatments that harm or destroy human embryos, or that use cells or tissues that are obtained by harming or killing human embryos (including any human embryos created by human cloning or other laboratory manipulations)?

NO

I don’t believe embryos are people. Embryos do not have brains or higher brain activity, and a large percentage of embryos naturally will not be born, either through a failure to implant or through miscarriage. As such, I do not believe embryos deserve legal protection, other than as the personal property of their parents.

HEALTH CARE RESTRUCTURING LEGISLATION

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010” (“ObamaCare”) (Pub. L. No. 111-148), which passed Congress over the objections of NRLC. When the government rations health care in a way that makes it illegal or impossible for Americans to choose life-saving medical treatment, food, and fluids, it imposes a type of involuntary euthanasia.

Through objectionable features separately described in questions 17-20 below, this legislation is resulting in unacceptable denial of life-saving medical treatment through rationing. It also provides subsidies for private health plans that cover elective abortion, and contains provisions that are likely to result in further expansions of abortion through administrative actions by various federal agencies.

(17) Would you actively support repeal and replacement of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010” (“ObamaCare”)?

NO

Six years in and I can’t find any solid evidence of the government rationing health care. (If I am wrong, please show me.) ObamaCare provides subsidies for all health plans. If health plan providers decide that it makes sense for them to cover abortions, then the free market will decide that. The last phrase (“and contains provisions that are likely to result in further expansions of abortion through administrative actions by various federal agencies”) is a clear slippery slope fallacy. Provide better family planning care and you get fewer abortions.

There are things I don’t like about ObamaCare, but I believe the law should be amended, not repealed and replaced.

Regardless of your answer to question 17, please answer the following additional questions about the PPACA as well.

ABORTION IN HEALTH INSURANCE

The PPACA (“ObamaCare”) established a new program to assist tens of millions of Americans to purchase private health insurance, including plans that cover elective abortions. The law also created a program under which a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), will administer private plans that will be offered across the nation, but failed to prohibit the agency from including in the program health plans that cover elective abortion.

(18) Would you support legislation to revise the law to permanently prohibit federal premium subsidies from being spent on plans that cover elective abortions, prohibit federal agencies from administering plans that cover elective abortions, and prohibit federal mandates requiring private health plans to cover or provide access to abortions?

NO

The last part of that question I could support, as I don’t believe private plans should be required to cover abortions, but if the market has a demand for plans with abortion coverage, PPACA plans should be able to include it.

(19) Would you oppose any new health care legislation intended to comprehensively revise or replace the PPACA unless it contains explicit language, covering all provisions of the legislation, prohibiting federal subsidies for elective abortion and for insurance plans that cover abortion, and preventing federal pro-abortion regulatory mandates, on a permanent basis?

NO

“Any.”

RATIONING IN HEALTH CARE

ObamaCare has made Americans increasingly concerned about denial of life-saving medical treatment for themselves or their family members resulting from its implementation.

(20) As a general principle, do you agree with this statement?: “Federal law ought not to limit what private citizens can choose, out of their own funds, to spend on medical treatment to save the lives of their own family.” See generally www.nrlc.org/medethics/healthcarerationing/

YES

Obviously. I strongly disagree with the premise. Americans are not “increasingly” concerned about rationing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most Americans aren’t concerned about rationing at all. This is fear mongering.

EXCESS BENEFITS TAX: The law (“ObamaCare”) imposes a 40% excise tax (named the Excess Benefits Tax) on premiums for employer-paid health insurance exceeding an ObamaCare-set limit (26USC§4980l). As explained in a September 30, 2013 Politico article, the level at which the tax kicks in will be linked to the increase in the consumer price index, but medical inflation generally rises faster than that. Think of the…tax as the slow-moving car in the right land, chugging along at 45 miles per hour. It may be pretty far in the distance, but if you’re…moving along at a reasonable clip in the same lane–say, 60 miles an hour–and you don’t slow down, you’re going to run smack into it.” When, in the not-too-distant future, the “collision point” is reached, health insurance benefits for employees will effectively be prevented from keeping up with medical inflation, forcing compounding cutbacks in the health care they are permitted to receive.

DOCUMENTATION for this and the subsequent 3 questions: http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/communications/healthcarereport2014.pdf

(21) Would you vote for legislation to eliminate ObamaCare’s Excess Benefits Tax?

NO

Maybe. This is an attempt to control the rate of medical inflation. It hasn’t kicked in yet, so determining the effects of the Excess Benefits Tax is impossible. I don’t know if it will work or not, but I think we should let it ride for a few years to see the effects.

IPAB: The law (“ObamaCare”) establishes an “Independent Payment Advisory Board” (IPAB) which is directed to make recommendations to prevent private health care spending from keeping up with the rate of medical inflation. If the Board fails to complete this task, the law directs the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to do so in its stead. In either case, HHS is empowered to implement these recommendations through the imposition of “quality and efficiency” measures on health care providers. For example, no insurance plan offered through any of the state or federal insurance exchanges may contract with a health care provider who fails to abide by the federally imposed “quality and efficiency” measures.

Because the objective is to limit not just health care paid for by government funded programs, but also that paid for by private citizens and their private health insurance, treatment through a doctor and patient deem needed or advisable to save the patient’s life or health but which runs afoul of the imposed standards would be denied, even if the patient is willing and able to pay for it.

DOCUMENTATION: www.nrlc.org/medethics/healthcarerationing/

(22) Would you vote for legislation to eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and the authority of HHS to use “quality and efficiency measures” to limit treatment paid for with non-government funds?

NO

Actually yes and no. I had this argument a while ago on Facebook. The main focus of the IPAB is to bring the administration costs of insurers under control. Administrative costs in the U.S. are approximately 25%, which is about twice as high as Canadian and European costs. I would be in favor of legislation to limit the authority of HHS to limit treatment paid for with non-government funds.

While cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from federal payments in Medicare, the law empowers HHS to limit senior citizens in spending their own money to make up the difference. Under the law as it existed before, older Americans were permitted to add their own money, if they chose, on top of the governmental payment, in order to get insurance plans less likely to ration care (known as Medicare Advantage private-fee-for-service plans). The new law gives HHS the standardless discretion to reject any such plan and thus to limit or even eliminate senior citizens’ legal ability to add their own money to obtain health insurance less likely to ration their health care.

(23) Would you vote for legislation that would restore the previous law so that HHS could not limit the right of senior citizens to choose to add their own money on top of the government Medicare payment to obtain private-fee-for-service plans less likely to ration health care?

NO

Taking a quick look, I don’t see any shortage of Medicare Advantage plans available. If HHS determines that a company is failing to keep administrative costs under control or is making excessive profits, it should be able to reject that company’s plans. I am not doing a huge amount of research on this right now, but if anyone knows of the HHS abusing this authority, I would love to hear about it.

Health insurers will be excluded from the new state-based insurance exchanges whenever government officials think plans offered by the insurers inside or outside the exchange allow private citizens to choose to spend whatever the government officials, in their standardless discretion, think is an “excessive or unjustified” amount on their own health insurance.

(24) Would you vote for legislation that would remove the authority of state-based insurance exchange officials to exclude health insurers from competing within the exchange on the basis of how much the insurers permit private citizens to choose to spend on health insurance?

NO

I am answering “no” here mostly because I don’t know enough about the issue. My gut feeling, however, is that private citizens who want “Cadillac” health insurance should not have any trouble acquiring such coverage outside the exchanges. As such, keeping these plans off the exchanges should not be an undue burden on the public.


A brief summary of what I said above:

  • I would allow abortion on demand until the twentieth week of pregnancy.
  • After the twentieth week, I would allow abortion to save the life of the mother or to abort a severely deformed fetus.
  • I am opposed to abstinence-only education.
  • I believe ObamaCare should be amended, not repealed, as it does far more good than harm.
  • I think the NRLC is a black-and-white organization. I think most real world issues are shades of gray; only rarely is something black or white.
  • I think the NRLC is relying on scare tactics to gain support among the elderly.

Hopefully I will get to the rest of the questionnaire (Questions 25-36) tomorrow.

 

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Now, where was I?

So, four years ago I ended my campaign when my personal life fell apart. It was the right decision at the time, and I’ve used the time to get my head back on straight. Unfortunately, in that four years the trend of acrimony in government has only worsened.

Take, for example, this image from the Washington Post:

barbera-figure

In politics there are very few people in the center, because our two-party system punishes those without extreme views. In the real world, very few people hold extremist views. These people don’t have a voice.

The world isn’t black or white, but most of our politicians think it is. The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, isn’t demonic and it isn’t perfect. The Republicans want to scrap the whole thing while the Democrats are afraid to let any of it be touched, and because of this, fixing any problems with it is impossible. Abortion is another issue clouded by extremism. Most people aren’t strictly pro-life or pro-choice. (Note: As a general policy I call people and groups by the names they prefer. So while some may prefer “anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life” or “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice,” I believe that this is needless antagonism.) My position is more middle-of-the-road, and, ironically, based on an old Christian belief that the soul enters the body at the quickening (no, geeks, not the Highlander quickening, but when the mother first feels movement). I’d be fine with unrestricted abortion until the quickening, then increasing restrictions up to full-term for extenuating circumstances like rape, incest, the mother’s health, or serious birth defects.

I am not running for Congress because I think Chuck Fleischmann is a bad guy. In many ways he’s represented Chattanooga in Congress well, and the contacts I have had with his office have been pleasant and efficient. But he’s done some things that I consider to be, well, obtuse. For example,

What’s the point of doing any of that? They don’t have enough votes to override a veto, just like the other fifty times they’ve voted to repeal Obamacare. It’s a move designed to please conservative Republican voters, not to actually do anything. It’s these sorts of shenanigans that I will avoid, and, if elected, I’ll call out my peers whenever they pull this sort of thing. The job of Congress, as I see it, is to act according to the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Wasting Congress’ time and the people’s taxes on quixotic quests is unacceptable. Yeah, there’s a lot wrong with our government, but there are plenty of problems we can solve that aren’t–or shouldn’t be–partisan. I have plenty of ideas on how to make our country and our world better, and many of those are revenue-neutral; that is, they won’t cost us anything more than we’re already spending.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions on my positions, my experience, or anything else about me, fire away.

Topher

Note: The posts following this are four years old. My views are probably similar, but may have changed a bit, so read with care.

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Filed under Abortion, Democrats, Health Care, Republicans

The Remaining Republicans, Plus a Bit of Overcompensation

First, a little diversion. A few minutes ago my daughter Zari and I were walking across a parking lot when she said, “Look, Daddy! I see two stars!” Most parents would say something along the lines of “That’s nice, dear,” and continue on their way. That’s not the way I roll. I said, “I don’t think you see any stars, because I think those are planets.” I was pretty sure that the lower “star” was Venus, so I pulled out my Android phone and ran the Google Sky Map app. Sure enough, the lower one was Venus, while the upper one was Jupiter. I showed this to Zari on my phone, and she was happy to see it. Of course, her next question was, “Where’s Betelgeuse tonight?” Fortunately, even with the bright moon tonight, I was able to point to her favorite star–this time without resorting to the app. One problem with our schools today is the lack of parental involvement in children’s education, and I think a large part of this is that many parents aren’t trained to turn a child’s question into a teaching moment. I have a few ideas on how to make this type of experience happen more often.

Last month I discussed four of the six Republican Presidential candidates in the race at the time. Since then, Huntsman and Perry have dropped out, but the two I had missed, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, are still in the race.

Mitt Romney

I think Mitt Romney is best equipped to persuade independent voters that he’s not a far-right conservative candidate. Unfortunately, he’s had to undermine much of that to put himself in the lead for the Republican nomination. He governed Massachusetts as a moderate Republican, but he has distanced himself from many of his successes because they run contrary to Republican dogma. Having said that, unlike Gingrich, I think his word is good, even if I consider some of his beliefs to be flawed. One article today focused on his views on abortion, religious freedom, and gay marriage. I disagree with his gay marriage position, but his abortion position is better than that of his Republican opponents, since he would at least allow emergency contraception for rape victims. I can see both sides of the religious freedom argument, but I think the bottom line is that if a religious organization is willing to accept government funding, it has to expect to have to follow some governmental regulations. Romney currently sides with the religious groups, and I wish I knew whether this was a real change or an attempt to gain votes.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is the poster child for misguided good intentions. His social conservative credentials are spotless, which makes me very uneasy. I don’t think there is any question that he means well. The Bono quote about Santorum really summarizes my feelings about him, “(He) has a kind of Tourette’s disease. He will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable.” Of all the Republican candidates, he seems to best understand the importance of development assistance, both for its own sake and to counter China’s growing influence. I wouldn’t be upset with him in an ambassadorial position, and I could potentially see him being an adequate Secretary of State, but on social issues, he terrifies me. Of the three non-Romney candidates, I think Santorum is the most likely to get a VP nod to shore up Romney’s conservatism, but I think such a mood would seal Obama’s reelection.

The Corporate Pendulum

I consider myself fortunate to have mostly worked for small businesses. I like being on a first-name basis with my ultimate boss, the CEO, President, or owner of my employer (yes, amazingly enough, even this job, but that’s a story for another day). In my current job, our smallness makes us nimble, and we have been able to adjust and benefit from changing market conditions while seeing our competition wither and, unfortunately, sometimes go out of business. I do have many friends working in Corporate America, and I see one recurring theme: They rarely get promoted without changing employers. I have a two theories as to why this happens, one of which is discussed far too often–the emphasis on immediate short-term profits–but the other is that too many corporate managers do not understand the importance of institutional memory.

I do not have an MBA–my business school experience is limited to helping a girlfriend through her business classes at USC–but I’m guessing that from the willingness to trade expensive experienced employees for cheap inexperienced recent college graduates, this isn’t something that’s taught. This problem is also present in government: the U.S. often has trade representatives with limited experience doing battle with negotiators from other countries with decades in their jobs. Recently, I’ve heard corporate horror stories from two friends:

The Big Box Store

One friend of mine is an expert in payment processing systems. He wrote the code or managed the writing of the code for most of their systems, which process millions of dollars of transactions daily. The problem for my friend is that his employer doesn’t recognize his value, or, more specifically, his institutional memory, so he is stuck in a cycle of corporate consulting followed by unemployment. He will work on a system upgrade on a contract running anywhere from six to eighteen months, at which time he’ll be unemployed for six months to a year, waiting for the next upgrade cycle. It isn’t quite that simple though: When the next upgrade cycle arrives, the Big Box Store doesn’t call him, it hires headhunters to find someone with the necessary qualifications. There is only one person on the planet with the necessary qualifications, so they always find him and present him with a low, insulting offer. After some negotiations, he returns to the job with a 20% increase, only to find that in the time he was gone, almost all of the team for the last upgrade has left for greener pastures, replaced by H-1B visa imported workers. My friend should be a lifetime employee, and he should have coworkers who have worked with him for a decade or longer.

The Call Center

When my other friend began her employment with the call center, the company had the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry by a significant margin. Management was not satisfied with this, because the company was lagging in market share, so about two years ago, the company shifted the call center focus from helping customers to upselling them. Revenues and profits have not improved as a result, and the company has gone from first to worst–again, by a significant margin. Management blames the call center employees for the decline. Management’s failure to realize that the problem is the result of their philosophy shift, combined with the loss of their top customer service employees because they were unable, or perhaps unwilling, to do a job that they were not hired to do. These employees knew how to provide great customer service, and because of the change they are likely lost forever. Regaining customer trust takes far longer than losing it, but the emphasis on profit makes me think that the likely long-term management solution is to outsource these jobs.

So, Topher, How Do You Fix It?

Employers argue that there is a shortage of qualified workers in many fields, so they must employ foreign-born and -trained workers. That these workers usually happen to be less expensive than their American counterparts is a bonus. I would address the problem on two fronts:

  1. Base student loan interest rates on the course of study. If there’s a high demand for computer engineers, offer a low interest rate for computer engineering students. If there’s a low demand for marketers, then the interest rate should be significantly higher–if the government guarantees the loan at all. If someone really wants to be a marketer, he can still get a degree, but he can’t expect the government to invest in his career choice. This should drive students toward majors that provide good career opportunities. Obviously, as the business climate changes, these interest rates should be adjusted accordingly.
  2. Make companies pay a premium salary to H-1B visa recipients. If companies can pay entry-level wages to H-1B employees, then they will gleefully replace seasoned American workers with the cheaper foreign labor. If there really is a shortage, act like it, and pay the workers accordingly. I think setting the minimum salary at the median for an American worker with five years of experience might be a good starting point. If the shortage is artificial, it will disappear soon enough.

Thanks for your time, and please let me know what you think, good or bad.

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Filed under Abortion, Corporate America, Gay Marriage and Gender Issues, Republicans

Day Two: A walk in the park

Tonight after work I picked up Zari from school and drove to downtown Chattanooga to talk to some Occupy protesters. Like any group, I agree with some of what they say and disagree with some, but they were pleasant, polite people. I’m sure I’ll see some of them tomorrow morning at the Hamilton County Election Commission, where they are gathering to sign petition forms for people who want to get on the ballot for the Chattanooga Mayor’s recall election. I’m hopeful that they’ll sign my forms so that I can take care of everything on one visit.

On to today’s issues…

Health Care

Health care is a complex issue. I need to start by explaining a few of my core beliefs. First, I think everyone should receive a minimal level of health care regardless of their ability to pay. In some areas private charities have admirably filled this role, but in others the demand for services outweighs the ability of the community to provide adequate care without government intervention. However, I also believe that government is too involved in health care. Even without Obamacare, the federal government would have paid over half of all medical expenses in the U.S. this year. In other words, there hasn’t been a free market controlling prices in the U.S. for a few decades. In most places there are only a few large insurance companies from which an employer, or more and more likely, an individual can choose. Many of these policies are shell games, since while they may claim to pay 80% of a bill, in reality agreements between the insurers and service providers often result in a write-down of 70%, meaning that most of the “discounted” cost may still be the patient’s responsibility. Finally, the U.S. suffers from a severe disadvantage in the export of manufactured goods, because international trade agreements do not consider government-provided health care to be a manufacturing subsidy. Simply put, a U.S.-built Corvette is more expensive overseas because German and Italian manufacturers don’t have to pay for health insurance for their workers.

A couple of years ago I read about the health care system in Switzerland. The short version is that every person is required to purchase minimal health insurance coverage. If someone can’t afford it, as determined by 8% of the person’s income, the government pays the rest. Insurers are not allowed to profit from this minimal policy, but they can market add-on policies that provide additional coverage, for things like dental care and private rooms. Out of pocket expenses are higher than in the U.S., but that’s really an apples-to-oranges comparison, since employers pay health care costs for many Americans.

What I would like to see happen is:

  1. Laws prohibiting insurers from operating across state lines repealed, leading to higher levels of competition.
  2. People required to purchase minimum health insurance policies in a manner similar to people being required to have car insurance, with government subsidies where necessary.
  3. All insurers being required to provide these minimal policies, with restrictions on how much profit they can make from these. I don’t find prohibiting profit appealing, because the profit motive often drives efficiency, but it does need to be reasonable.
  4. When employers no longer have to provide health care to their workers, they need to pass this savings to them in the form of increased pay. These companies should make more due to improved international competitiveness, not by passing this savings onto their shareholders.

Please note that I am fully aware that I am not an expert in this field, so I know full well that this will not work as proposed, but I do think that the underlying ideas are sound. In my opinion, while Obamacare has many things I really like, such as the prohibition on denial of coverage for existing conditions (Note: “Pre-existing” is redundant. Something cannot exist before it exists.), but much of the plan is putting bandages on bullet wounds.

Abortion

I see an abortion debate dominated by fanatics on both sides, while I think most people are like me and fall somewhere in between the extremists. One key issue is the discussion of when life begins. Historically, there are five stages where the definition of the beginning of life was defined legally:

  1. Conception
  2. Formation of the fetus
  3. Quickening (when the movement of the fetus can be felt by the mother)
  4. Viability (when the fetus can survive outside the womb)
  5. Birth

Pro-choice advocates often argue for birth, while pro-life advocates argue for conception. (Personally, I think both are wrong, but that’s not really my point.)  In Latin law, it was sometimes considered homicide if a woman was poisoned after formation of the fetus, and always if after the quickening, and British law agreed with this interpretation. For many reasons, this seems like a reasonable line in the sand to me. I don’t want abortion to be used as a contraceptive, but I also don’t want women to have to get government approval to terminate a pregnancy, such as in the case of a pregnancy caused by a date rape where the victim may not even know her attacker. I will argue that a sound policy would be to allow abortion up to X weeks (somewhere in the 12 to 16 week range), but severely restricting abortion after that, probably to cases where either the life of the mother was in danger and, perhaps, to cases where the fetus was severely deformed, although I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the latter.

Both extremes have dominated this debate. I think it’s time for a middle-of-the-road option with a solid legal precedent. Let’s say, however, that you disagree with me and you believe that life begins at conception. My proposal is still better than the current legal situation. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and I want more ideas to help make my ideas better for everyone.

Topher

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Filed under Abortion, Health Care, Occupy Chattanoga