Monday, January 19, 2009

The Strange Case of Jane Roe

The pivotal point of the American debate over life for the past 36 years has been the 1973 Supreme Court decision in the Roe vs. Wade case. Perhaps no other issue has polarized American life like abortion. The next supreme court nominees, like the last ones, will not be asked first about the Constitution itself, but rather about abortion, and specifically, Roe v Wade. What is the story behind this decision?

First, we need to realize what Roe vs. Wade did. Most people think it legalized abortion. In the broadest of terms, that is almost right. However, many US states had already legalized abortion. Like many other issues, abortion was a state matter, an assumed right of the reserve clause of the Bill of Rights, that all powers not given to congress were reserved for the states. In that way, each state made its own decision about abortion.

In 1973, most abortion activists knew that there was no way to push further legalization of abortion through popular elections: most Americans were firmly against abortion. Like many unpopular causes, the Left turned to the courts and a tiny majority to get their way on this issue. Norma McCorvey was a pregnant unwed mother. She didn't have any big feelings about things one way or another. A coalition of special interest groups took a "special interest" in her case, and used her as a tool, under the pseudonym "Jane Roe" to present their case to the most willing of lower courts. In what must have been a very carefully orchestrated plan, years in the making, the road was paved to the Supreme Court. But even paved roads in the court system are slow. By the time the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to strike down Texas' abortion laws, McCorvey's "fetus" was a toddler, and she never had an abortion. Today, both McCorvey and her daughter are active in the pro-life movement. McCorvey herself says she was used -- abused -- as a tool to push through an agenda that she did not favor. Her daughter has a stronger agenda, however. She was given a death sentence by the same Supreme Court that had overruled death sentences for convicted murderers a year earlier.

What are the problems with this ruling? First, there continues to be the deception of those who support the ruling. They often say that if Roe v Wade were overturned, abortion would be illegal in this country. That is a lie. It would only return the issue to the states, where it belongs, and where it resided for 184 years.

What is the basis for the ruling? The Supreme Court ruled that there was an implied "right to privacy" in the US Constitution, and based their ruling on a convoluted misinterpretation of the third amendment, which prohibits the quartering of troops, and more importantly, the fourth amendment, which prohibits illegal search and seizure. The latter is the more ridiculous of interpretations, as it is a prohibition against allowing someone to enter a location not their own, and forcibly remove something from that domicile. Interestingly, that is exactly what an abortion is.

Even more interesting is that the justices found a "right to privacy," even though one is not mentioned in the Constitution, but could not find a "right to life," saying that the 14th amendment's guarantee of protection as a citizen could not be extended to the unborn in this case. The ruling was made assuming that we could not know the forefathers' intentions when they wrote the Constitution. Of course, many of those same men who were instrumental in developing the Constition had, thirteen years earlier, penned the Declaration of Independence, which stated that people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." There, not implied, but stated boldly, is the "right to life."

The decision to take or spare that life was left to the interpretation of each state -- until 1973. Why, you may ask, didn't they work with the various state legislatures to push their agenda? The answer, of course, is obvious: most states found the killing of the unborn repugnant, cruel, and against nature itself.

So why not leave things as they were? Any American who wanted an abortion could move to a state where it was legal. Why go to the trouble of overruling 50 sovereign states? By the way, Roe v. Wade not only overruled the "pro-life" states, but also the "pro-abortion" states, rewriting their own rules and restrictions in this issue.

The basic answer is "finances." Abortions were not economically feasible. The process was costly, and most people could not afford it. States could not pay for the abortions they provided, and the abortion industry could not flourish. By mandating a blanket abortion law across all 50 states, the issue was put into federal control. Federal funding was on the way, and today most clinics make their money from federal (read "taxpayer") funds. Before 1973, those who lived in a pro-life state did not have to subsidize abortion.

Had Roe not passed, abortion might have died. Most abortions are requested by women who cannot afford the procedure, and that same lack of funds extends to other necessities of life. If those seeking abortions had moved to states providing them, those states would not have been able to support the financial substructure necessary to support the people who needed the procedure. By mandating that all citizens in all states support the procedure, abortions soon became the profitable business they are today.

Were abortion to actually be outlawed today (and that would take more than just overturning "Roe"), our nation would suffer a gigantic economic crisis because of the jobs, research, and raw materials generated by the harvesting of the unborn.

Roe v Wade also ensured that abortion could be forced. Catholic hospitals are faced with a conscience crisis when they must choose between being eligible for Medicare and Medicaid money or refusing to do abortions. Pharmacists of principle have lost their jobs for refusing to distribute RU-486, the "morning after pill," to teenagers. Some have lost their jobs over this issue when all a customer would have had to do is walk across the street to another pharmacy. The Roe decision was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

McCorvey claimed that she had been raped, or at least was coached to say this. She says today that she never imagined that women would use the decision that bears her pseudonym to use elective abortion, not once, but repeatedly.

No one will ever know how many scientists, researchers, teachers, statesmen and women, public servants, artists, and philanthropists have been exterminated in the womb since 1973. But the decision was made in ignorance by justices with a prejudice. The woman who was forcefully used to push the case through was a victim, not a plaintiff.

As we celebrate this week: the 19th, the memory of a great man, Martin Luther King, the 20, the historic inauguration of our 44th president, let us not forget the 22nd, not as a celebration, but as a mark on our nation as despicable and shameful as September 11th. And let us push for a reversal of Roe v Wade. Let's take Washington's hands off the unborn, and return this decision to the states, as the Reserve Clause would dictate.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A New View from the Inside

Every time I hear any of the entitled ones, whether they be Republican or Democrat, talk about "Health Care," the only thing their little narrow minds can envision is "insurance." I wish it was that easy. I wish that the health care solution could be one of two things:
  1. The really easy fix: All of our health care problems are being caused by evil, profit-mongering insurance companies. The federal government could force them to offer us all health insurance for fifty dollars a month, and cover it 100%, and we would all be healthy and happy.
  2. The "throw money at it" fix: We need to replace greedy, capitalistic health insurance companies with a benevolent, government controlled socialistic "one size fits all" health insurance program, taking a meager amount from our earned income and paying hospitals to keep us healthy and happy.

Obviously, both of the above scenarios are fairy tales. I do not deny that insurance companies will try to find ways to keep from paying any money they don't have to, sometimes unjustly. What I do deny is that they have played a main role in the crisis that is ongoing now. I am trying my best to avoid merely repeating some of my earlier rants on this blog site. Let me try to state some things in a new way. In this past week, I have been "on the inside." A person close to our family has had a hospital experience. I have just a few observations to make.

  • It takes at least 15,000 dollars to ride a helicopter from one hospital to another. I think I found a way to pay my own medical expenses. First, I need a helicopter so I can make 14,500 dollars profit on each ride. If I furnish as few as two rides a day, I can pay maybe half my daily hospital expenses for just what I'm charging for the helicopter ride.
  • Doctors no longer understand the entire body. I think there are doctors that treat only the left ear, and others only the right. Some treat veins while others treat arteries. And none of them know how to read an x-ray. They have to hire that out.
  • Hospitals are constantly under construction. I guess they have to find some way to "tax shelter" the money they charge. All hospitals are under construction.
  • Only doctors and employees can park within five blocks of a hospital. Everyone else has to park further away, and has to pay for the privilege.
  • Half of the "emergency room" parking is "handicapped only." What say we make an allowance here, and speculate on the fact that perhaps everybody that needs an emergency room is at least temporarily "handicapped." Maybe someone didn't get a chance to apply for a handicapped plate between the time he got the knife in his back and the time he arrived at the hospital. Maybe we could forego the restrictions and signs.
  • Hospitals like mazes. There are no straight lines in hospitals. If they have letters before the portion of the hospital, they will not necessarily mean anything and will never be in alphabetical order. "A" wing will never be next to "B" wing.
  • Oh, and parking places are like gangland turf wars. Instead of "crips" and "bloods," etc, hospital parking lots are the turf of "radiology" or "enterology" or "cardiology" parking only. If your kidney just blew up, sorry about that. Find the renal lot. This one belongs to the heart people. If you see a sign that says "doctor parking," you are too close to the hospital anyway.

Sunday night, I had driven 120 miles to catch up with the helicopter, and as we waited for only six hours to get someone a room, I looked in that emergency ward. Everywhere I looked, there were people on cell phones, and one big word I kept hearing was "insurance." A bigger one, though, was "medicaid." I heard snippets as I walked by, of people saying, "I don't know how we will pay for this." Recently, one of my own friends talked about when his mother came out of her coma in a trauma ward, and her first words were, "How will we ever pay for this?" I can't recall anyone in the eavesdropped conversations talking about the health condition of a friend or loved one. It was all about spending the rest of their lives trying to figure out how to pay everything.

This morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," Michelle Katz, author of at least two books I plan to buy, spoke of how, after the trauma of saving her husband from a fatal heart attack, she then had the harder job of getting a correct hospital bill. She and her husband were overcharged thousands of dollars for the stay. Several months ago, Mellody Hobson, also on "GMA," said that up to 70 percent of all medical bills are in error. That was kind of her, because merely "in error" would have meant that some patients were under-charged, which never actually happens.

If the medical world were held accountable like I, a private citizen, am held accountable, we might be able to solve many of these problems. Yet medical institutions are not held to these rules, and we are bombarded by these bank breakers:

  • Bills sometimes come 6 months to a year after the fact. I have thought at times that I was totally paid, and then, long after the account was settled, had it re-opened by a late but substantial billing entry.
  • Billing is not uniform. I have found that it is better not to mention at all that I have insurance. A few years ago, I had to take my son to the emergency room. The sign said in English and Spanish, both of which I read, "Emergency room expense is 200 dollars." That was good for me because my policy at that time paid up to 200 dollars for the emergency room. Imagine my surprise when, six months later, I got the bill from the hospital for 250 dollars. They had billed my insurance company 450 dollars for the 200 dollar emergency room, the insurance company had paid its 200, and I was left owing 250. If I had just denied having any insurance, I could have saved fifty bucks.
  • Billing is not unified. Even a CPA could not keep up with billing. There is the doctor's bill, the hospital's bill, the ER bill, the specialist bill, the radiology bill, and then the bill for someone who, 200 miles away, at 4 AM, allegedly read the xray and did something worth 600 dollars. Then there are incidental bills for medicine, meals, kleenex (at 12 dollars a box), etc. Your hospital and any of the others above will be more than happy to forego the inconvenience of an itemized bill for these things. In addition to the insurance and payment nightmare this poses, it also allows for double billing, even triple billing of the same treatments.
  • The burden of proof is on you. Not only that; if you take the time and effort to straighten out the bill, the hospital usually says, "Okay, you got me. Pay the rest." On one of our bills, the hospital billed our insurance company, got an offset of the bill (about half) and then, three months later, billed us for the full amount. When we called to ask them about it, they said it was the full amount that we owed. After another month that included getting a statement of payment from our insurance company, the hospital, without comment, apology, or admission of error (actually theft), merely sent us a new bill showing about a two thousand dollar "adjustment" with no explanation.

It is a frightening dichotomy. On the one hand, we have the best doctors, not only in the world, but in history, living in the US right now. We have miracles of medicine that extend and save lives, and diagnostic equipment that my grandparents only dreamed of. On the other hand, the medical world is a world of uncertainty, humiliation, financial disaster, and interminable waiting in lines, of mountains of repetitive paperwork. As we waited to admit our friend the other night, I was amazed at how many times differing departments asked her the same questions regarding address, phone, medical history, insurance numbers, contact numbers, etc. It seems that all that information, once in a computer, could be readily available for all. My wife and I had updated our contact information on one floor of that huge hospital, but that updated info did not make it to the destination floor, where they tried to contact us at an outdated number.

One key I see is the huge, bottomless pit of money and resources that can be drawn from the federal government. If tomorrow, all medicaid and medicare was shut off, hospitals would go broke all across the country. Add 100% group plans that very few people get, and we'd lose them all. When the idea of a general practitioner was abundant and every village of 500 or more in the US had a clinic and doctor, it was possible to pay a medical bill without mortgaging the rest of your life away. It was also possible to park within 100 feet of your doctor's office. When the local MD knew you, shopped, dined, and worshiped where you did, there was an ambience of friendship, of relationship, that precluded the idea of "malpractice," either the "doing or the suing."

If there were any way to turn back the clock to these times, to eliminate the monstruous medical complexes in favor of the local clinic and hospital, to allow a doctor to deliver a baby without fears of being sued every time, we might be able to pay our own way. But now, if you have something worse than a hangnail, you have to be referred to the nearest city of 200,000 or more to get it taken care of. Local G.P.'s can't -- or won't -- be bothered with it.

The worst possible thing we can do about this crisis is further nationalize and regulate it. We don't need government-provided health insurance. The most radical, but probably the most effective remedy would be for every American to cancel his or her health insurance tomorrow, to tear up every medicare and medicaid card, and let the medical industry free-float to a market value it deserves. Oh, and of course, put a strict limit on lawsuits and liability, so a doctor can insure himself for less than six figures a month.

But of course that's not going to happen. So when you get sick, be sure to bring lots of pens and paper for the paperwork, prepare to walk several miles, and say goodbye to all your money, even if you have insurance. Because health care needs fixing, and it's not going to happen if we keep treating the symptoms. Doctors used to know that.