When an experienced columnist makes an argument this bad, it’s hard to judge whether he is disingenuous or just dimwitted. Today’s example is from the Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne , who says that if conservatives were really pro-life, as they claim, they wouldn’t be “positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies to include maternity coverage.” Pregnant women whose maternal care is covered, you see, are more likely not to choose abortion, you see, so we should be in favor of forcing everyone to pay for maternal care in their health insurance policies.

Even families (e.g. elderly couples) in which everyone is past childbearing age? Even young single men with no dependents? Sure, says Dionne:

Never mind that we who are lucky enough to have health insurance end up paying to cover conditions we may never suffer ourselves. We all want to avoid cancer, but we don’t begrudge those who do get it when the premiums we pay into our shared insurance pools help them receive care.


Yet critics of Obamacare apparently think there is something particularly odious when a person who might not have a baby pays premiums to assist someone who does. It’s true that men cannot have babies, although it is worth mentioning that they do play a rather important role in their creation. In any event, it is hardly very radical to argue that society is better off when kids are born healthy to healthy moms.


There is nothing to the rest of the column but feeble attempts at point-scoring against pro-lifers. Not his fellow pro-lifers, you understand. E. J. Dionne, for more than two decades as a Post columnist who presents himself as a Catholic, has never written a pro-life sentence, and this column is not a sign that he has become concerned about abortion. Indeed, by his own strange logic, Dionne ought to be perfectly indifferent to the issue he raises today, since he is on record as being agnostic whether women bear their unborn children or kill them.

But the paragraphs quoted above reveal something else, and that is Dionne’s perfect incomprehension of what health insurance is. It is indeed about the pooling of risk, but no one willingly buys insurance against risks that, in the nature of things, do not and cannot concern him. Dionne thinks insurance is a scheme for the social redistribution of costs, but that is another thing entirely. By his reasoning, the social costs of insuring against floods at the Jersey shore should be addressed by requiring homeowners in Death Valley to buy flood insurance. The social costs of insuring against the death of airline passengers should be addressed by requiring people to buy flight insurance who never fly. And so forth.

I cannot imagine a pro-lifer dumb enough to be taken in by this foolishness. I could be readily convinced, on the other hand, that E. J. Dionne was not being disingenuous. And that’s very sad.

Articles by Matthew J. Franck

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