Has our financial mess brought us to the brink of getting beyond the culture wars?
It's a question that we might just see play out on Capitol Hill in the coming months, as the new political majority seeks to make the late pro-life congressman Henry Hyde proud, by prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion and de-funding Planned Parenthood.
"Hell no," now-Speaker John Boehner said, when he was in the minority, to the comprehensive, conscience-offending health-care legislation that Congress and the White House insisted upon last year. So now that he's Speaker, the first big vote under his watch was to repeal the president's signature piece of legislation.
What do you do after a repeal -- one that is stalled in the obstinate, Harry Reid-run Senate? Move on to H.R. 3, a measure that would take care of something that the old leadership claimed they had already done: keep taxpayer money away from abortion funding. As Boehner put it in introducing the legislation: "A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people and ought to be the law of the land. But current law -- particularly as enforced by this administration -- does not reflect the will of the people."
A little hint about the popular will could come in the enthusiasm among many freshman members of the House toward an effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
"Ending taxpayer funding of abortion and getting Planned Parenthood's hand out of the pocket of taxpayers are clearly crossover issues," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says. "Social conservatives as well as fiscal conservatives can generally agree that the government has no business being in the abortion funding or subsidizing business."
He adds some praise for HR 3: "The new leadership is clearly up on their history. They know they have no room for equivocation -- promise made must be promise kept, and that is what they are doing."
Even as I write, though, I can hear the critics, even on the right. 'There they go again: rosaries on my ovaries.' Or, less crassly: 'Culture warriors, on the march.'
But you don't have to agree with me on the abortion issue to see how H.R. 3, among others things, makes common sense.
"I think we need to redefine 'culture war,'" says Matthew Spalding, author of "We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future." "It usually means social issues fought out in politics. What the left does not understand, and why they don't understand the politics of the moment, is that many (perhaps most) see the administration's agenda, across the board, to be an assault on America's culture of self-government. In this sense, forced payment for abortions is not just or even primarily about abortion but about experts in Washington instructing us about how we make decisions about sensitive matters. The objection is the same as that against Obamacare in general."
An excellent question for social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and plain old voters is the one Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation poses: "Why are U.S. taxpayers borrowing money at a record rate to, in part, provide grants to an organization, Planned Parenthood, which raised $388 million more than it spent from 2002 to 2007?"
He adds: "There might even be a rule there for Congress to consider -- any nonprofit that applies for federal funds should be required to reveal its reserves and explain why the taxpayers and not the nonprofit should bear the cost of the activity the grant covers. The easiest way to get to this result, of course, is to de-fund the grant program until the nonprofit can demonstrate real need for its services."
Sounds peachy to Ryan Hecker, who organized the tea-party "Contract from America" and sees the new House leadership's post-repeal step as a no-brainer: "Over the next two years, Congress must make many hard choices about how to rein in out-of-control spending and our national debt. This may include debates about 'untouchable' entitlement programs and whole executive departments, and unpopular and difficult decisions may need to be made. By contrast, the 'No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act' is an easy one."
If it's the very future of the Republic you're worried about, ask yourself: Unless something has to be paid for by the taxpayers to protect or defend the Constitution, why not cut it?
Kathryn Lopez is the editor of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.