Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business


The U.S. Senate is now considering a bill to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) (H.R. 2). SCHIP provides health insurance for low-income children. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is prepared to offer an amendment to codify the unborn child rule. Since 2002, federal regulations have improved SCHIP by giving states the option to cover unborn children from conception to birth. See: Federal Register , Vol. 67, No. 191 (Oct. 2, 2002). This regulation allows states to provide prenatal care and other health services to the child and the child’s pregnant mother. Fourteen states have chosen this coverage option: AR, CA, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, OK, OR, RI, TN, TX, WA, WI.


There are two ways pregnant women and their unborn children might benefit from the SCHIP program. One is to extend coverage specifically to pregnant women themselves. That is now an option for states under a waiver, and it is already codified in the SCHIP reauthorization. But it is odd to refer to an adult pregnant woman as a “child,” and more substantively the coverage has two negative features: it will be covered by the same restrictions regarding immigrants as other federal health programs, and in 17 states that have state-funded Medicaid abortions it will automatically expand coverage for abortion as well.

Here is what the unborn child option achieves that the “pregnant woman” coverage does not: Because the coverage is in the name of the soon-to-be-born child, who upon birth will be a citizen, it provides urgently needed care for both mother and child regardless of the mother’s immigrant status. This is no doubt why 14 states, including liberal states like California and Massachusetts, are using this option NOW to provide care for many pregnant women and mothers who would otherwise be denied any help because of restrictive rule on health care for immigrants.

It is, to say the least, a false and stupid “economy” to deny prenatal care in such cases, creating a situation in which the new citizen will be born sickly or premature and require an intensive care nursery or other corrective action, which of course the government will pay for because the child is now a citizen.

The “unborn child” rule will be supported by most Republicans because they respond to the idea of the child before birth receiving medical care; it should be supported by most Democrats because it helps the neediest women and children in our society who the SCHIP program will reach in no other way.

On January 28, Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent to the Senate a letter with fact sheet in support of the Hatch Amendment.

Filed under: morals, Personal Reflections, Politics, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

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