A Post For All Who Call Themselves Prolife

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A year and a half ago, I was working on legislation to ensure that children with disabilities weren’t denied therapies because of their disability. Our sponsor (my mom) was approaching her term limit, and we needed a new one. We knew we had to find a Republican, because the legislature is Republican-controlled. We also knew that putting mandates on insurers could be a tough sell. Still, we felt sure people on both sides of the aisle would recognize that this issue was bigger than political philosophy.

I contacted a former Republican state senator who was well-connected and reportedly supportive on disability issues. I told him what we were hoping to accomplish, and asked him to suggest people to approach as sponsors.

His reply raised my blood pressure for weeks afterward. (Eventually, its presence in my inbox became such an open sore that I had to just delete it. Just thinking about it still gets me going.) However he intended it, it came across as condescending: a man clearly much wiser than this do-gooder little girl, and determined to teach me the error of my ways. His philosophy went something like this:

Insurance is not meant for ordinary care. It’s meant for emergencies, for extraordinary circumstances, cataclysmic events you can’t anticipate. Therapy is normal, ongoing care for kids with special needs; thus, insurers shouldn’t have to pay for it unless they want to. And the government certainly shouldn’t be putting a mandate on them. It’s the responsibility of the families to provide for their children what they think is important. He understood how tough this was for families to accept, but nonetheless that was the way it was.

I’m sure you can appreciate why I hit the roof when I read this email. Never mind that raising a child with special needs is extraordinary circumstances and something you often can’t anticipate. I had the good sense not to respond at all, because there wasn’t one polite thing I could have said. But believe me, I’ve composed many, many responses in my mind. And the more time passes, the more convinced I am of the grave flaw in his argument.

Because this man calls himself prolife—by which he means that he believes abortion is wrong. But respect for life is so much bigger than abortion. It’s an attitude that should permeate all of life, in all its forms and manifestations. Prolife politicians are very good at being outraged by the systematic termination of “imperfect” children. But if you’re going to ask people to shoulder the responsibility of caring for children with disabilities, you can’t abandon them once the child is born.

Missouri has a great program called First Steps, which provides these services. But in rural areas, it’s hard to find providers to come to the home. And First Steps ends at age three, after which kids enter the school system. We’re lucky—we have a great early childhood program where I live. But we’re in an urban area. What about families in small towns without the resources to provide for kids through the schools?

When I was serving on the Children’s Therapy Act committee, we heard stories of people who had to sell their homes to pay for their kids’ treatment, people who deliberately stayed in low-paying jobs so that they would qualify for Medicaid, which does cover these therapies.

How dare politicians stand on a soapbox, claiming that all life is precious, that children with disabilities have a right to live, and then turn their backs on families who actually have them? Do they not realize that, unlike insurance companies, parents can’t negotiate reduced rates? Do they not realize how crippling the expense of therapy becomes? Or do they just not care?

Political philosophy is all well and good, but it cannot be so rigid that it leaves behind those it purports to serve. I happen to think that minimizing regulations is a sound principle—within reason. But the reality is that power companies aren’t going to implement environmental reform if it’s going to cost them money. CEOs aren’t going to give up their huge bonuses just because the economy’s rough on the little guy. Some things MUST be mandated, or they won’t happen at all.

Doesn’t it make more sense to get these kids the treatment they need to become productive, (tax-paying) members of society? And if we don’t, if we shove the disabled population into a corner, behind a wall where their lack of function doesn’t make everyone else uncomfortable—if we don’t show them the respect they are due as human beings by providing them the tools necessary to integrate into society—then how can we be horrified and outraged by the eugenics of aborting the “imperfect”?

I share this example today in the hope that it will open people’s eyes to the many ways besides abortion in which life is disrespected. We’re accustomed to hearing about certain issues: death penalty, abstinence education, end-of-life issues—but respect for life is everywhere, all the time, in every single issue we face as voters. As we head into an election cycle, I beg you: challenge your candidates to man up and be consistent. If you’re going to respect life, you have to respect life in all its forms.

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27 thoughts on “A Post For All Who Call Themselves Prolife

  1. Shelley

    What makes me the most mad about this posting is that people on Medicaid can get therapy, paid by insurance. My mom works admissions at a local hospital and she sees this type of thing everyday. People with insurance, hard working people like James and I who are typical middle income living paycheck to paycheck. They come in and need tests that are either not covered by insurance or they have to pay a high deductible as well as a percentage. Then she has low income people come in needing the same tests, on Medicaid, and they
    pay nothing. I not only think it is a political/insurance issue but a skewed welfare
    system. Ive researched and ran the
    numbers….hypothetically, someone on Medicaid and welfare who receives free healthcare, free
    child care, food stamps, etc makes as much as we do after we pay insurance premiums, etc. Its disgusting. Our whole system needs an overhaul….from welfare up and especially getting people therapies needed to become a productive part of society. That also includes the ridiculous amount of money dr’s and hospitals charge and how much insurance pays.
    Not sure if any of this is actually related to what you were saying, apparently my soap box came out 🙂

    • You are absolutely right. The whole system does need an overhaul. I also think doctors & hospitals should have to adhere to customer service practices just like everybody else, restaurants and retailers and so on. If those places offer poor customer service, they have to suck up the costs. The medical field doesn’t–I’ve posted about that before, waiting for two hours in a cramped waiting room only to see a doctor for three minutes, who says “come back tomorrow.” Ridiculous.

    • Amen Shelley! Don’t worry… my husband pulls out the soap box every week, whenever we witness injustice in the welfare system …while the rest of us are living on a shoestring budget. 😛

    • In defense of some doctors – the good ones – your family practice, pediatric, and internal medicine doctors generally make far less than $200,000 meanwhile working 60+ hours per week, only to have the insurance companies come back to them and say “though you’ve billed X amount, we’re only going to pay 2/3 of that”. Nevermind the fact that they can’t bill the service of seeing the patient or talking to a patient on the phone. It’s totally ridiculous! They have to charge that much because it’s completely disproportional to what they will finally get paid.

      I hope you have respect for your doctor, who may see you, not prescribe anything nor do a billable procedure, and work through whatever problems you may be having, and then she/he may get a pittance from your insurance company.

      On the whole, you are both right, but I felt I needed to defend a shrinking and valuable portion of the population who don’t have the power/time to fight the insurance companies and politicians for a better system.

      • You are right, Trina. If I tried to reiterate previously made points nobody’d read a word I say, because it would go on too long. 🙂 But since you brought it up, I do feel that it would be a good idea to share why I feel as I do about doctors–we’ve had our share of the unbelievably, amazingly good as well as some bad experiences. The lowdown on that is here: https://kathleenbasi.com/2009/10/28/health-care-hassles/. And I feel it necessary to add that after the first bad experience I share there–the one in which they said “come back tomorrow”–by the time that followup appointment came around, Julianna was in the PICU.

  2. “If you’re going to respect life, you have to respect life in all its forms.”
    Hear, hear. I cannot understand otherwise good people who can’t seem to grasp that being prolife is about more than just not directly killing the unborn.

  3. My sister has such frustration with insurance coverage for therapies and such. Her husband works for a company that is “self-funded” (whatever the heck that means). Apparently this makes it so they can’t require their insurance to cover therapies for their daughter with Autism. Even when some laws are passed, there are often loopholes for insurance companies to get out of covering things.

    I agree with you about pro-life being more than just about not directly killing the unborn.

    • A lot of us don’t compartmentalize abortion–but I fear that a lot of politicians do. Which is why I think it’s time for the prolife movement to hold so-called prolife politicians accountable.

  4. I don’t consider myself disabled, but as someone with a “pre existing” heart condition, the insurance companies I’ve dealt with refused to cover any of my regular exams or treatments.

    So, as you say, what do parents do when a child is born in less-than-perfect health? It’s the price we pay for having children, I suppose?

    I’m lucky that I’ve never had heart surgery or been placed on expensive medication (yet!), my current exams run approx $1000 each year, and thankfully our doctor accepts a sliding scale fee to help us.

    We also get burned by life-insurance companies: apparently I’m a walking liability on paper… I joke with my husband that he can’t take out multiple million-dollar policies on me, with hopes of cashing in upon my death. 😉

  5. Jenny Keely

    I hesitate to type anything because our political views are so different from one another, I doubt either of us is likely to be swayed by the other. But, I do want to say that it seemed like you are equating a politician’s respect for life with a “show me the money” stance. I take strong exception to the message that essentially says, “If you don’t think abortion is right, then you need to pony up and pay the bills for those born with disabilities. Otherwise, you’re a hypocrite.” I think energy would be wiser spent on building up the programs you mentioned such as the First Steps programs so they have greater outreach and wider accessibility. Yes, I realize that funding for these programs will also come out of the public’s pocket, but at least with that more focused approach, we have a better idea where the money is going. Conversely, if government uses MORE regulation of private entities such as insurance companies, there will be universal, generalized increase in cost of ALL services to everyone. Maybe my stance stems from the rugged individualism you mentioned recently in your blog.

    • I don’t have any objection to building up programs like first steps…in fact, I think it’s a great idea. The main problem is practical: there just aren’t providers in rural areas. The only way people can get the services they need, if there aren’t providers willing to work in their area, is to travel to a central location. And if they end up paying more for the same service than the insurers would pay on their behalf, that’s hardly fair, is it?

      It may be that the fix has to do with making it possible for individuals to get the reduced rates that the insurance companies pay. For sure, this is a multi-faceted problem. But I do think it’s wrong for people to say that abortion is wrong and then leave parents to deal with the fallout on their own. Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely opposed to abortion. But you can’t just say, “You have to have this kid, and whatever problems you have to face in parenthood, no matter how lifelong or debilitating they are, you’re on your own.” It’s just not right.

  6. Jenny Keely

    Thanks, Kate. My reluctance to post also is due to my awareness that I know nothing about what your life is like. On an intellectual level, I understand that it is difficult, but I cannot walk in your shoes. As difficult as your walk might be, I can’t imagine the plight of parents without the advantages you and Christian have of good jobs, good educations, and easy (making assumptions here)access to special programs for your daughter. Even as far right as I am, I do get that. 😉

    • I didn’t want to double comment on yours, but I got to thinking about this Bible passage; it seems really applicable to what I’m talking about:

      “They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” (Mt. 23:4)

      • Jenny Keely

        See, now it’s becoming unclear exactly what you’re advocating. Whether it is intended or not, what I’m hearing from you is the implication that there are all these people out there finding out that their unborn babies have defects and who, were it not for government intervention (which is not there)would have them aborted.
        My point is, I think your bone of contention is really with politicians who don’t want to advocate for the financial support of the disabled. I don’t think pulling politicians’ prolife stances in to the argument really applies here because their prolife platforms don’t really matter anyway; abortion is still as accessible as ever. Maybe I’m just not “up” on the legislation (entirely possible)but I am not aware of any states that are preventing women from terminating babies that have been found by ultrasound to have defects (regardless of the stances of those states’ legislators).

      • You’re right, of course; abortion is going to be available no matter what anyone thinks about it. My point is that politicians ought to be consistent in what they support. When they (you, I, we) say all children are holy and should be allowed to live, that places a burden. Like it or not, for some people that is a burden. If they (you, I, we) are to be consistent, the proper response is, “Yes, this child deserves to live, but I know that makes your life harder–so here’s a way to make that burden lighter.”

        But right now, I hear Democrats saying “choice choice choice” but being more open to lightening of the burden, while I hear Republicans saying “life, life, life, but once the child is born, you’re on your own.” How can I, in good conscience, support either of those positions? That’s my frustration; that’s why I wrote the post. Does that make sense?

  7. Jenny Keely

    Okay, last post and then I will leave you alone. You said,”If they (you, I, we) are to be consistent, the proper response is, “Yes, this child deserves to live, but I know that makes your life harder–so here’s a way to make that burden lighter.”

    Why is it the role of the government to “make that burden lighter”? There are plenty of people in this society with heavy burdens to bear which do not include the care of loved ones with special needs.
    Since we agree that the government does not determine who is allowed to live/be born (yet…), why is it the government’s responsibility to ease that particular burden? My mother was very suddenly widowed at the age of 58 after 40 years of being a SAHM and wife. That was quite a burden that was suddenly placed on her very small shoulders (while she slept blissfully unaware that the body next to her was lifeless)! She has received a small “death compensation” for lack of a better term but it provided little help in easing her burden. Should we then advocate for government to assume the care of all widows? Where do we draw the line in determining what burdens are worthy of lightening and which are not?

    • I get what you’re saying, Jenny. But prolife politicians are (at least in theory; not so sure about reality) trying to make a law to prevent abortions. And I’m saying that if they’re going to require one, by their personal stand on things, so must they do the other. As far as where the line is drawn between the government’s job and not the government’s job, I’m not askign the government to provide the services–only to make sure that an entire class of people is not discriminated against. Understand that if Alex got a head injury, insurers would pay for whatever therapy he needed, for as long as he needed it. But because Julianna has Down syndrome, she is discriminated against. They won’t cover therapies. Now, some of this is in flux b/c of the national health care bill, but the state of affairs as I just stated it is just plain wrong, and the government is the only enforcing authority that can do anything about it.

  8. It boils down to people looking at “cost” vs. “investment”. When it comes to disabilities at any age, whatever we do to help someone function as well as possible is an investment in the person and underlines the dignity of the human being. We don’t need to see monetary payment from our “investment” because we need to look at what all of us with disabilities contribute to the intangible lives around us.

    Our society is more and more divorced from God and so materialistic that unless we all do what we can,it won’t be long before the death panels assign us “useless eaters” a number to be murdered.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I, too, am disappointed that “pro-life” has become “anti-abortion” instead of what it should be: anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-death penalty, anti-war when possible, and pro-family.

  10. Here in my part of Mississippi, they have Early Steps. However, the worker came and worked with my son, until about two months ago, when she left to go on maternity leave and she told them she wasn’t coming back. They knew for seven months that she was going to be leaving, and have been just too plain lazy to replace her, so now my son gets nothing. They screwed us over. He loved her, and loved the therapy, and now it’s gone, and our county has NOBODY to do this stuff anymore. He will be going to school soon, but because of lack of co-operation from Early Steps the whole process is taking much longer than it has to.

    I agree with you in the fact that republican “pro-life” politicians really aren’t as pro-life as they pretend to be. I’m totally pro-life, don’t believe in abortion for any reason. However, pro-life politicians are the ones that fight against socialized health care (which if you look at countries like Australia and the UK is not as bad as what the people in the US who don’t like the idea of socialized medicine are trying to pretend it is), are the ones that are wanting to send young men and women to war (so it’s not ok to let them be killed before birth, but it’s ok to have them killed after they have been born a while).

    If these politicians were truly pro-life, they’d fight against abortion, fight for a workable socialized medicine plan, and stop sending people to war.

    • Your point about socialized medicine is interesting. I’ve heard people who have been in both systems argue on both sides of the issue. Some say the socialized systems are horrible, others say they’re amazing. Which basically tells me that they’re flawed, just like ours, and you can have great experiences and horrific ones in the same system.

      • Yes, you are right, both systems are flawed. But at least the socialized system shows actual care for it’s citizens rather than essentially saying “tough luck” to those who cannot afford health care. Leaving people to die because they cannot afford health care isn’t very life-giving.

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