Eyal Press is a Nation contributing editor and the author of Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times and Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict That Divided America.
The Sarkozy commission advanced new ways of measuring progress—but hurdles remain.
In an opinion rightly hailed as a "bombshell" in Haaretz, Israeli Supreme Court President Dorit Benisch did not deny that privatizing prisons might potentially save money. She simply determined that incarceration infringes on such fundamental liberties that only the state should carry out this function, not least since the alternative is to turn prisoners into a means of extracting profit.
As is now widely known, added to the health care reform bill just passed by the House of Representatives was a provision barring access to abortion called the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. Passed with the support of sixty-four Democrats, Stupak-Pitts doesn't merely prohibit coverage of abortion in a public option. It also forbids women who receive a federal subsidy from purchasing any health insurance plan that covers the procedure, even if the abortion is paid out of a separate pool of private premium dollars (for all the background and details, see my colleague Emily Douglas' post).
If this highly regressive amendment makes its way into the legislation that Barack Obama eventually signs, millions of less affluent women who obtain access to affordable health insurance will thus join the ranks of low-income women on Medicaid, most of whom live in states that don't cover abortion procedures. The two-tiered system that dictates who in America has "choice" (more privileged women do, less affluent women do not) will be further entrenched.
But if the social consequences of Stupak-Pitts are clear, the logic is not. Supporters of the provision evidently want to assure taxpayers that they will not be forced to subsidize abortion in any way. But if they are serious about this, why haven't they drawn up an amendment abolishing tax breaks for employer-sponsored health insurance? As Jonathan Cohn has pointed out, this is by far the largest subsidy in health care policy today. (It is also a regressive subsidy, but that's another story.) If the employer-sponsored insurance that a worker gets happens to cover abortion – which, in roughly half the cases, it does – than that taxpayer already subsidizes abortion.