A veracity heuristic

March 23, 2010 § 42 Comments

When Planned Parenthood and pro-life groups unanimously agree on something, it is probably true.


§ 42 Responses to A veracity heuristic

  • JohnMcG says:

    To play devil's advocate…

    * It seems like the interests of both could be in alignment to portray this as a pro-abortion victory. Pro-life groups to up the urgency to Act Now!, and pro-abortion groups to save face.

    * I'm not certain PP's joy is related to abortion funding, though their focus on stopping the Stupak amendment does give lie to all the rhetoric in the last week about how there is NO DIFFERENCE between the Senate and House bills.

  • M.Z. says:

    I prefer to live by the heuristic, if lifenews and lifesitenews claim the sky is blue, go outside and check. More generally, I don't care for outsourcing my thinking. The bill is there to be read, read it.

    Since PP has interests other than abortion, it is metaphysically possible for them to be joyful for the increased funding they are getting for services unrelated to abortion. In fact, that is the case.

  • zippy says:

    … it is metaphysically possible for them to be joyful for the increased funding they are getting for services unrelated to abortion. In fact, that is the case.

    HAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!! Holy cow that was funny!

  • M.Z. says:

    It's real simple Zippy. Over the next few months either:
    a) CHCs will start performing abortions using federal dollars,
    b) CHCs will continue to not perform abortions with the federal dollars they receive, and pro-life leaders will be shown to be the dishonest, reactionary, partisan hacks that they are.

    Personally, I'm invested in b. Where are you placing your money? The beautiful thing about this is that we will have an answer to the question.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I agree that accountability is a good heuristic.

    MZ and others have spent the past several weeks telling us that HCR will not fund abortion. These are a matter of record.

    I think there does need to be some accountability check to see if this comes to pass. If HCR does result in funding abortion, then absent some serious accounting for their errors, we should never take their interpretations seriously again.

  • JohnMcG says:


    Are you invested in b because you don't want to see CHC's perform abortions, or because you are eager to see “pro-life leaders [to] be shown to be the dishonest, reactionary, partisan hacks that they are?”

  • zippy says:

    'Cause its all and only about CHC's, isn't it? Nowhere else in all this does a taxpayer nickel find its way to the hand that wields the curette.

    One of the blackly amusing things about the present state of American politics is the almost universal kool-aid induced hyponatremia: PP's exultation about stopping the Stupak Amendment can't possibly be about stopping the Stupak Amendment, even though they say it is.

    “Stopping the Stupak ban was a high priority,” she said. “It was a tough fight, but we salute Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D- CA), Congressman Rosa DeLauro (D–CT) , members of the House Pro-Choice Caucus.”

    What, oh what could Cecile Richards mean by those baffling words? How can we possibly choose an appropriate interpretive hermeneutic within which we can locate the discursive lacunae, to engender an exculpatory narrative?

  • M.Z. says:

    I'm certainly willing to live by that standard JohnMcG. People of their own volition will be able to purchase plans in the exchange with abortion similar to employers being free to cover abortion in the plans they offer employees. While ideally no one could choose a plan that covers abortion, we aren't on worse ground than when we started. I would argue we are on better ground, but the moral standard is not worse ground.

    So as to be understood clearly, the point of debate is whether Community Health Centers will be providing abortions with federal dollars. I have said they will not. I have no issue being held accountable for that statement.

  • m.z. says:



  • zippy says:

    So you are OK with other abortions funded by federal dollars? In your fantasy that is the status quo?

  • M.Z. says:

    There are no abortion funded with federal dollars. Put up or shut up. And when I say put up, I don't mean telling me what side of the bed PP wakes up on in the morning.

  • zippy says:

    It isn't me who will ultimately hold you accountable.

    The post points out that both pro-life groups and Planned Parenthood don't believe that the executive order is worth the paper it is written on. I think they are right. That you don't think they are right is both unsurprising and unmoving.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    MZ sees no cognizable difference between a situation in which individual insurance plans, unfunded by federal tax dollars, pay for abortions, and a situation in which the federal government provides credits with which to purchase insurance plans that pay for abortions.

    That's really the bottom line. As long as *someone* is paying for abortions on a widespread basis, it's all the same to MZ, because it's _gotta be okay_ for the federal government to fund the healthcare industry as-is.

    Now, I get this, but what makes me faintly ill is the semantic legerdemain by which this gets translated by MZ and company into statements like, “There are no abortions funded with federal dollars.” I mean, seriously. Why not just say, “Yes, via affordability credits and the pooling of money and routing money through the federal government, abortions will be funded with federal dollars now that were not thus funded before. But _I'm okay with that_, because I so much want the federal government to fund health insurance plans for people who can't otherwise afford them, and that's the status quo with the majority of health insurance plans right now.”

    That, at any rate, would be honest.

  • m.z. says:

    You seem called upon to do so in the termporal space here, so put up or shut up.

  • zippy says:

    Since we are putting up or shutting up, why is it that you seem so reluctant to sign up to the proposition that no federal dollars will pay for any part of any abortion, including premiums for plans which provide abortions, as a result of this law, executive order, and ensuing litigation?

    I mean, come on. If you qualify it down to meaninglessness that isn't really putting up, is it? Own your advocacy, already.

  • m.z. says:

    There are no abortions funded through affordability credits. This is a simple empirical claim.

    a) What amounts to an abortion rider is required by law to priced so as to be actuarially sound in its own right.
    b) Absolutely no federal dollars can subsidize that rider. Period.

  • zippy says:

    Exactly Lydia. In MZs fantasy federal dollars for abortion is not federal dollars for abortion. Of course PP knows better.

  • zippy says:

    MZ: you gonna put up a meaningful commitment here, or what? Statute, order, and ensuing litigation?

  • m.z. says:

    I made my commitment. You seem to have endoresed Lydia's nonsense. Until you commit yourself to truth, we really have nothing to discuss. I've made my claim plainly. I've asked you to put up or shut up. You've done neither. Talk amongst yourselves.

  • zippy says:

    I'll take that as a “no”: you won't sign up to what the actual effects of the legislation will be on federal dollars for abortion as it is implemented in the context of existing law and inevitable litigation – which is the whole point of the unanimity on the executive order's meaninglessness. You'll just sign up to a very narrow, meaningless point unrelated to the specific subject matter of the post.

    Just so we're clear on your understanding of “putting up”.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I had a post on the dodge regarding “pricing” the so-called “abortion rider.”


    The only way that I can see in which it is outdated is in that it discusses the public option, while the present bill does not contain a public option. But the whole idea of mingling private and federal dollars and merely “deeming” (ha!) the abortion “part” to be paid for by private dollars is a load of malarkey. Two especially relevant points: No one has ever previously suggested that this would work as a way of including abortion funding in federal employees' insurance plans while claiming not to fund abortions with federal dollars. Second, the pro-lifers suggested that plans have a possibility of a _real_ abortion rider, _completely separate_ from the actual plan purchased by the government and negotiated _entirely_ between the private individual and the insurance company, and this was voted down. Now, I wonder why, hmmm?

  • zippy says:

    That strikes me as downright deemonic.

  • Tony says:

    M.Z.'s position is in pretty problematic even on his own terms.

    Over the next few months either:
    a) CHCs will start performing abortions using federal dollars,

    Why in the world do you limit it to the next few months? That's silly. It will take a little longer – like, the amount of time it takes the courts to get involved.

    Here is just part of the overall mechanism that will be involved: There will be some case in which a woman who wants an abortion, was treated at a CHC, and was relying on Fed dollars, cannot get an abortion. She will sue, and some idiotic court somewhere in the US (most probably 9th Circuit, but there are other options) will find that she was wrongfully denied a federally paid abortion, that the law insofar as it is understood as precluding fed funding for it is unconstitutional. The executive order (which, by the way, has not actually been signed yet, so I hear), will be null, moot, meaningless.

    Now, let's apply a little extrapolation. The city of San Fran legislated that you have to provide contraceptives and abortion in any health insurance to your workers if you want to do business with the city. The city of Baltimore now requires that any crisis pregnancy center has to state to all clients that they don't provide abortion services. The city of Washington now requires that any adoption agency place children with gay couples. Who in their right minds would bet more than a dollar on this proposition: There will never be any city, state, or federal gov. provision in statute or regulation in which, within the context of the health care bill, a CHC must either provide an abortion if requested or suffer consequences that will seem draconic?

    But, as Zippy says, CHC's are not the sum total of the bill. There's lots of other places where abortion eventually will be paid for by fed funds.

  • JohnMcG says:


    My prediction is that it won't lead to funding on abortion, but only because concerned citizens will be watching like hawks to ensure it doesn't happen.

    One would hope those “concerned citizens” would be those who have spent the past several months telling us it won't lead to funding of abortion, but my suspicion is that they will instead be working against those watching, musing about their “strange obsession,” etc.

    Then, they will claim vindication because it did not actually fund abortion, but not pause to credit those who worked to ensure it didn't.

    See: FOCA

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    John McG, my understanding of the Capps Amendment (which I gather is part of the present set-up) is that there is no “lead to” in question. The federal dollars _will pay for_ plans that _do cover_ abortion. It's really more a matter of “hidden in plain view.” That's just out there. The government “credits” for citizens who cannot otherwise afford to obey the government mandate to purchase insurance will go to plans that cover abortion. MZ _admits_ this, if you look above. The Vox Nova crowd _admits this_. The question, then, is simply whether you _call_ this “federal dollars paying for abortion.” Their claim is that you shouldn't call it that if this little accounting thingy is done under which either the private person or his employer pays for part of the plan (which usually happens anyway), some bureaucrat figures out the supposed actuarial value of the “abortion part” of the coverage, and the dollars that the person or his employer pay as their portion of the premiums are _deemed_ to be paying for the premium on that portion of the coverage.

    That's it. That's the way it's set up to be. There isn't any “lead to” about it. If this plan of action is actually followed, the MZ Forrests of the world will say that the pro-life leadership is full of liars, while the pro-life leadership will say that what is happening is what they said all along would happen. It's not like there's some big empirical test we're waiting for here to see what this “leads to.” You can decide right now what you think of the Capps Amendment's accounting dodge.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Also, if it is true that PP is mistaken that there is a significant difference between Stupak and the bill that passed, I eagerly anticipate the Vox Nova post calling PP out for their mistake, with equal vigor with which they called out pro-life groups and the bishops for making the exact same mistake.

  • Tom says:

    On your reading of the Capps Amendment, will federal dollars play for plans that do cover abortion in the same sense that food stamps allow people to buy cigarettes — e.g., “I've got $20 in cash and $20 in food stamps, and I need $30 worth of food, so I can buy $10 worth of cigarettes” — or is it more direct than that?

  • zippy says:

    …or is it more direct than that?

    On my reading it is more direct than that. It isn't that the person can buy, assuming its availability, using his own money, an entirely separate insurance policy covering abortions from, say, a different company. It is the same insurance policy, and its segregation into the “abortion rider” and the “abortion-free policy” is an act of nominalist fiat.

    Sure, a food stamp recipient can buy milk from Bob's Dairy and then use cash to buy cigarettes from Phillip Morris. And while that may be problemmatic, it isn't at all the same thing. This would be more like using food stamps and cash to buy cigarettes, where by nominalist fiat we proclaim that the food stamps are only paying for the filters in the cigarettes.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Not that I'm an expert, but I'd say it's a somewhere between the two.

    From the insurance company's perspective, it may look like that — they have two inputs of funds, one of which is unrestricted, the other of which has restrictions on it.

    From the individual's perspective, they are one big fund.

    I don't care for it, and I wish it wasn't there, but my feelings about it stop a little shy of outrage. That may be a failure of conscience on my part. What's important to me is that there is a separation between abortion and other health care. That abortion coverage requires a separate, non-subsidized payment, well, I wouldn't say it settles it for me, but it makes me feel a little better.

    Obviously, there are those for whom that doesn't do it, and I'm not positive they are wrong.

    In any instance, we and I still have work to do.

  • zippy says:

    Not that I'm an expert, but I'd say it's a somewhere between the two.

    Whatever else may be the case, it is definitely not the status quo, since this was not allowed in the case of federal employees and their health insurance policies. So it clearly fails the Evangelium Vitae test of being the same or more restrictive than previous law.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “they have two inputs of funds, one of which is unrestricted, the other of which has restrictions on it.”

    John, if I understand what you mean by that correctly, I think you mean that the insurance company can only perform as many abortions that year as are paid for by the premiums that came in designated as being for the abortion part of the plan's coverage. So that, in theory, the insurance company might run out of “abortion dollars” or something if demand for abortions exceeded the estimate that had gone into the actuarial calculations. But *as far as I know*, there is no such segregation of funds once the money goes to the insurance company. The policy is paid for, and that's it. From there on, the policy just works like normal, and abortions are paid for as a benefit like any other benefit out of the insurance company's funds.

    If we got our food and cigarettes paid for by way of “plans” for which we paid premiums, I could construct a similar scenario with the food stamps and the cigarettes, but I'm not sure it would add anything to the discussion. You guys can do that yourselves.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Whatever else may be the case, it is definitely not the status quo, since this was not allowed in the case of federal employees and their health insurance policies. So it clearly fails the Evangelium Vitae test of being the same or more restrictive than previous law.

    I think those on the other side would argue that most private employees currently can only get health insurance that covers abortion, and now they will have a choice to get non-abortion covering insurance, so this is a net positive. It will change the default from abortion-covering to not abortion-covering.

    I'm not sure of the veracity of that claim.

  • JohnMcG says:


    I see what you mean — in the food stamps heuristic, I have a fixed budget for cigarettes. If the price of cigarettes suddenly rises, I have to consume fewer cigarettes, or somehow secure additional funds I can use for cigarettes.

    Under this plan, the unrestricted funding must be actuarially capable of paying for all abortions. But if the price of abortion suddenly rises, that doesn't mean the plans will stop paying for abortions, since the funds are already mixed.

  • zippy says:

    I think those on the other side would argue that most private employees currently can only get health insurance that covers abortion, and now they will have a choice to get non-abortion covering insurance, so this is a net positive.

    “Net positive”, though, is irrelevant, even if we assume for the sake of argument that it is true. Evangelium Vitae does not grant a moral license to increase abortion availability (say) among poor blacks as long as the net availability of abortion decreases overall.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I hope you'll see this in the spirit of devil's advocate rather than an attempt to be difficult.

    1. Are federal employees now going to have the option of the abortion-included plans?

    2. If we gave a poor person cash, that would increase his access to a variety of things, including abortion, liquor, and cigarettes, as well as food and medicine. I don't think EV should be read to prevent giving someone cash.

    To continue our food stamps analogy, if the answer to #1 is yes, what we would essentially be doing is giving federal workers cash instead of food stamps.

    This is a difference.I'm going to think about whether it is a damning difference.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    There's one question I simply don't know the answer to, by the way: What about people who have no job and no money? People who can't possibly be billed for some portion of the premiums that would be “deemed” to cover abortion coverage? What kind of plan will they get? When there was a “public option,” the answer apparently was that they would get whatever was in the public option. And there was, at that point, no restriction on including abortion in the public option, and it looked very much as if it would be covered in the public option. Now there's no public option included in the present bill, so I don't know the answer to that question.

    This article


    indicates that the replacement for the public option is a Fannie Mae-like “non-profit” plan run by “private” groups but federally subsidized. There is nothing in the law as presently constituted that _stops_ this entity from including abortion coverage. It's all speculation. The article appears to be speculating that this “sort-of-public-option” will not include abortion coverage to begin with but will be forced to do so by court decision.

  • zippy says:

    1. Are federal employees now going to have the option of the abortion-included plans?

    I'm not sure that anyone knows.

    Cash isn't a good analogy to a credit which can only be used to buy a health insurance policy.

    What the federal employees point shows is that this new statutory understanding of “no federal funds for abortion” is less restrictive than the previous law. As I understand it that is all that is required to fail the Evangelium Vitae test.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I'll also add something else that is clearer from this discussion — there is nothing about increasing access to health insurance that either requires or is even made easier by permitting funding of abortion. It is quite clear that the goals of health care reform could have been accomplished with a very simple prohibition against the funds being used for abortion. It is increasingly obvious that these convoluted actuarial and accounting mechanisms were put in place to satisfy pro-abortion (yes, abortion in this case, not “choice”) interests.

    Which is why I always found the double effect arguments for reform unconvincing. Double effect requires that achieving the positive effect without the negative effect is impossible. I don't read “impossible” to mean, “given the political reality” or “within the rules for a reconciliation bill,” or, for that matter, “given that the perp won't talk.” It means impossible.

    This goes more to the crafting of the legislation than the individual decision to vote for it, but I think it's worth repeating — there's no reason that expanding access to health insurance needed to include anything remotely smacking of funding of abortion, except for our society's current toleration of the practice, which we all are compelled to fight against.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I have a pretty shrewd idea why they did it this way, though. As I say in my post on the subject: The goal of this so-called healthcare reform is for the government to control the whole healthcare industry, and in particular to control costs across the board. (One goal, anyway.) All the talk about how everything will remain the same, you can keep your current coverage, except that additional poor people will be covered, is a lot of baloney. The “commissioner” gets to decide what benefits can be included even in so-called gold-plated plans. There is no separate area where the customer–be that the individual or the employer–negotiates to include benefits in the plan entirely separately from government, over which government has no say or control.

    Given that this is the case, they cannot simply cover plans that don't include abortion and leave abortion coverage to be taken care of by whatever market there might be in a true, separate, abortion rider to the insurance plan. Because that's not how it's going to work for _anything_. In essence, either abortion has to be included as a plain old benefit and that package deal approved as a type of plan in the “exchange,” or nobody would get abortions covered by health insurance _at all_. Hence, the pro-abortion hysteria to defeat the Stupak Amendment. Their hysteria was based on the fear that non-abortion plans would become the only option, which from _their_ perspective would be a terrible change to the status quo. Hence their talk about “allowing people to purchase a plan that includes abortion.” As I said in my post on this, the healthcare bill is a control freak's dream. Every benefit in the plans must be permitted by Uncle Sam.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is a different take on the subject: The millions that PP is getting for those “other services” will also increase abortions.

    Its Prime Directive after all is “Stop 'em from Breeding”. Curiously though they are all for encouraging “Safer sex” which will result in unplanned pregnancies which will result in … more “surgery” business for PP!

    Yeah, right, our tax dollars aren't going for abortion.


  • zippy says:

    I agree, Faustina. The main point here I guess is that the objections from some Catholic quarters don't even work on their own terms, even if we stipulate the complete truth of all of their assumptions.

  • Tony says:

    So can we get the government to push abstinence training because it lowers health care costs?

    Hahaha. I didn't think they would go for that. So why does anyone believe them when they say the point of the health care bill is to lower health care costs?

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