Daily Pulse: Public Option Is Alive and Kicking

Lindsay E. Beyerstein

Reports of the death of the public option were greatly exaggerated. In fact, Democrats now have a chance to move further to the left. Also, can reproductive choice help reverse climate change?

Reports of the death of the public option were greatly exaggerated. According to Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, liberals are once again optimistic
that health care reform will include a publicly-run insurance option to
compete with private insurance companies. The main excuse to drop the
public option was that Republicans wouldn’t go for it. As Benen
explains, now that a bipartisan bill is out of reach, Democrats can
move further to the left. Progressive Democrats have convincingly
argued that the public option would save money, which undermines the
Blue Dogs’ opposition for the sake of fiscal conservatism.

The Senate Finance Committee will tackle the public option
tomorrow. Meanwhile, the House Democratic caucus is wrestling over what
kind of public option to support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly
rejected a so-called “trigger” which would activate a public option
only if private insurers failed to control costs. “A trigger is an
excuse for not doing anything,” she said.
By contrast, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports a trigger. The
views of the Speaker and the Majority Leader are important because they
will lead negotiations to merge the House and Senate versions of the
bill, creating the final text that both houses will vote on.

Meanwhile, in international news, scholars at the London School of
Economics released new research last week showing that reproductive
choice is the most powerful tool in the fight against climate change.
The news broke as nearly a hundred heads of state gathered in New York
for the UN Summit on Climate Change. As Amanda Marcotte notes in RH
Reality Check, the report’s recommendations are sure to spark controversy from both the right and the left:

It’s easy enough to assume that the Obama administration and the Sierra Club are shying away from the issue
because reproductive rights are such an explosive topic, and even
touching it brings a hail of crazy from the anti-sex nuts down on your
head. But I can honestly say that I don’t think it’s the fear of the Anti-Sex Mafia that causes this sort of allergy. It’s
the history of the fear of overpopulation being used as an excuse to
coerce childbirth choices, and the fact that as soon as the potential
for coercion is introduced, you suddenly attract a sea of racists who
love to pontificate about eugenics all day, and would love to be able
to influence policy to reduce the number of non-white people in
relation to the number of white people.

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At Feministing, Ann Friedman argues that the rubric of population control
is irrevocably tainted by its historical links to eugenics and other
forms of racism. She argues that international development should focus
on empowering women for their own sake, not because we hope that they
will have fewer babies.

I agree that the phrase “population control” is a misleading frame.
You could just as easily call it “helping women have as many children
as they want.” The key is that virtually all women want fewer children
than they will bear if nature takes its course. And the more
opportunities women have for education, paid work, and healthy
children, the fewer kids they tend to want. The phrase “population
control” should be scrapped, but the effort to put women in charge of
their own fertility must continue, for the good of humanity and the

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