A few days ago a friend had some pretty big news. Let’s call her Meagan. Meagan is about to become a grandmother. She’s going to be a wonderful grandmother too, and she’s very much anticipating this next life passage. There’s a lot to look forward to. Her son is hard working, educated and kind, and though I’ve not met his wife I think it’s a safe bet that she too is exceptional.

As is often the case with young married couples, the pregnancy was unplanned. Surprise! But needless to say it’s indeed, a very good surprise. There’s a whole lot of joy in the works and it’s a very exciting time for my friend and her family.

Meagan’s son works full-time. So does his wife. She’s a nutritionist, so it’s a safe bet that the two of them eat well and live a healthy lifestyle. They’re doing everything right, but there’s a glitch and it’s major. He has health insurance, but she doesn’t, and while their combined income is decidedly middle class, they can’t afford to insure her. The pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition and they simply can’t handle the additional $500.00 per month that it would cost to put her on his medical plan.

You probably see where I’m going with this.

I know, I know, I’m a broken record. It’s that damned health care discussion again. But when that debate becomes personal, and when it directly affects you or someone that you care for, then suddenly the debate is no longer abstract. It becomes a tangible and insufferable reality when you realize that this young couple is going to be hard-pressed to receive any prenatal care. And the cost of delivering their new baby? Well, that’s an issue best considered down the road. It’s too much to tackle right now.

Again, I’m left to wonder about priorities. As the senate debates the merits of healthcare reform, and as the specter of abortion is tossed into the fray like red meat to pit bulls, I wonder how Meagan’s family and future grandchild are going to fit into the debate. I wonder what logic the “pro-life” folks would utilize to deny affordable healthcare coverage to expectant parents?

For patients not covered by health insurance, the typical cost of a vaginal delivery without complications ranges from about $9,000 to $17,000 or more, depending on geographic location and whether there is a discount for uninsured patients. The typical cost for a C-section without complications or a vaginal delivery with complications ranges from about $14,000 to $25,000 or more.

That’s a lot of money, and as it looks now that’s a lot of debt for my friend’s son and daughter-in-law to face so early in life. It’s money that won’t be available for a down payment on a home, or put in a savings account for a college fund. It’s money that can’t be set aside for an emergency. In other words, it’s money that isn’t going to be accessible to live the great, American dream.

While the cost of delivering a baby without medical insurance is a real concern, there is however a much bigger cause for anxiety, for the scenario creates the real possibility that this unborn baby is not going to have entrée to the best medical care.

Those who fight healthcare reform claim they don’t want to tinker with the best medical treatment on earth. That’s a debatable assumption of course, but for the sake of argument let’s agree that the US has the best. These folks don’t want to jeopardize a good thing, and they certainly don’t want to jeopardize their own, personal interests. Given the degree of misinformation the opponents of healthcare reform have put out there, it’s understandable that the uninformed are terrified of change. It’s understandable, but it’s not excusable.

I would ask those that are fighting reform to consider that doctors and medicine and treatment is not something to be reserved for “the haves”. Affordable healthcare in a democracy should not be denied to the “have-nots”. Doing so seems cruel and simply un-American. But aside from the principle of what’s right or wrong, there is a blinding glare from the contradictions presented in this particular situation.

We’re talking about a fetus. We’re talking about an unborn child. We’re talking the language of pro-life.

So as the debate rages on, and as the anti-choicers utilize their beliefs to stymie universal healthcare, I think about the disadvantage those folks have created for my friends. I wonder, how do they reconcile their veneration for the pre-born with a system that denies pre and post-natal health care because of monetary concerns? I wonder how they resolve the true cost of for-profit medical care with their hypothetical veneration of life?

I think that’s a fair and unbiased question. Don’t you?

Kurt Niece is a teacher, writer, artist and author. His latest work, "The Breath of Rapture" is a satirical novel about the perils of religious fundamentalism.



Kurt Niece is a teacher, writer and artist.