Putting the


For months debate has raged in the United States over the proposed health care overhaul. Several contentious issues have emerged including the proposal's cost, the level of government control it would create, and most notably, coverage of abortion.

The leadership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate have seemed determined in recent months to make coverage of the taking of a life in abortion the sine qua non for health care reform.

A core group of pro-life Democrats, led by Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan – a member of the Knights of Columbus – has stood on principle and joined with the Republican minority in opposing the bill for its inclusion of abortion, and that coalition may well prove able to stop the abortion-laden health bill.

But why have Congressional leaders been willing to risk the entire legislation for the sake of abortion?

Many have seen this focus on covering abortion as interest group politics at its worst: Politicians playing to a small base in the face of massive majority opposition to abortion and health care funding of abortion by the American people. That may be true.

But speaking to National Review Online last week, Representative Stupak revealed another, even more alarming reason: There is a belief among some in favor of the health bill that aborting children now will save money in terms of long-term health costs later.

What he's hearing from some party members, Stupak told National Review Online is that "if you pass the Stupak Amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more."

"That's one of the arguments I've been hearing," He added. "Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue – come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we're talking about."

Abortion is no longer being spoken of just in terms of rights; it's now become for some of America's leaders a matter of cost. A child aborted today, won't need surgery or long term care tomorrow.

Calculating the cost

Pope John Paul II warned us that such calculations were what created a "culture of death." He wrote in Evangelium Vitae: "This culture [of death] is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of 'conspiracy against life' is unleashed" (No. 12).

"This culture [of death] is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency."

To create such a culture of death is bad enough, but to do so with the goal of economic growth is equally illusory.

Not only does such utilitarian thinking unleash a "conspiracy against life," as John Paul II put it, but it actually hinders development. In his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI warned that "openness to life is at the center of true development. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good" (No. 28).

Ironically, those who would dispose of the weak today to save money on health care tomorrow would actually create a society in which true economic growth is unsustainable – a system both morally and monetarily bankrupt.

The proof that abortion and a mindset that precludes life are not only bad moral policy, but bad fiscal policy as well is all around us. As we face a severe recession, it's clear that declining birth rates have not created sustained – or sustainable – growth.

In fact, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the president of the Vatican's Institute for Works of Religion has made a strong case that "the true cause of the [economic] crisis is the decline in the birth rate." As reported by ZENIT, he observed that risky investments and monetary policy have sought to compensate for flat growth due to declining population: "With the decline in births there are fewer young people that productively enter the working world. And there are many more elderly people that leave the system of production and become a cost for the collective."

Trade offs

Far from being a fiscal solution, abortion – along with the entire contraceptive mentality – has proven to be a Faustian bargain. Human life today is traded for a better future tomorrow, a future made even more tenuous by the loss of those lives necessary to sustain society's future growth.

And other cautionary tales of the unintended consequences sown by such policies are becoming increasingly obvious. The March 4 issue of the Economist features a cover story on "gendercide," the increasing trend of societies with too few women – as girls are selectively aborted. China is the largest case, but countries from Armenia to Belarus to Serbia to Singapore have increasing gender-skewed birthrates.

So does in India. In advertisements there, chillingly reminiscent of the health care debate in the United States, the Economist article points out that doctors have advertised ultrasounds to determine a child's sex as follows: "'Pay 5,000 rupees ($110) today and save 50,000 rupees ($1,100) tomorrow' (the saving was on the cost of a daughter's dowry)."

The article points out that parents who shied away from infanticide of baby girls, embraced aborting them by the millions. Making sex-selecting abortion illegal has not worked either. Society after society has bought into the idea of taking a life today for some perceived benefit tomorrow.

A health care system, willing to sacrifice tomorrow's children for today's financial gain, a system more concerned about costs than people can hardly be called health "care."

With such dire consequences worldwide, the leadership in Congress should take notice.

A health care system, willing to sacrifice tomorrow's children for today's financial gain, a system more concerned about costs than people can hardly be called health "care."

Americans, born and unborn, deserve better than to be seen in terms of their cost. The American people deserve a health care system that truly supports health, that upholds the dignity of all – a system that leads to the protection – rather than the depletion of – America's most important resource, its people. That is the fundamental reason why so many Americans supported the idea of health care reform in the first place. As Washington draws closer to enacting a new law, it should keep faith with that promise.

Any proposal that offers less isn't worth the cost in terms of human life – and promises a tomorrow more troubled than today.


Carl Anderson. "Putting the 'care' back in health care." Zenit (March 15, 2010).

ZENIT is an International News Agency based in Rome whose mission is to provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide audience, especially the media.

Reprinted with permission from Zenit - News from Rome. All rights reserved.


Carl A. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author, is the CEO and chairman of the board of the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, which has more than 1.7 million members. Since Anderson assumed the responsibilities of Supreme Knight in 2000, the Knights of Columbus have achieved new heights in charitable giving, providing more than $139 million directly to charity and 64 million hours in voluntary service in 2008 alone. A member of the bar of the District of Columbia, he and his wife Dorian are the parents of five children.

Carl Anderson is the co-author of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love with Msgr. Eduardo Chávez Sánchez, Postulator of the Cause of the Canonization of Saint Juan Diego and Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body with Father José Granados. His 2008 New York Times bestseller, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World, was published by HarperOne.

Copyright © 2010 Zenit

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