Putting aside for a moment the substantive arguments for and against the public option, it occurs to me that if it were to die that would have one unintended consequence: defusing the abortion issue.
When 19 pro-life Democrats wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to say that they couldn’t support health care reform that encourage abortion their wording was instructive:
“Much of the concern we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.”
Now some pro-life forces will argue against even providing government subsidies to people who then buy health coverage that includes abortion. But if the goal is to make health care preserve the status quo, it’s pretty touch to argue that even general subsidies to help people pay for private health insurance wouldn’t be allowed if the plan they chose covered abortion. Even John McCain’s campaign proposal to provide health care tax credits didn’t stipulate that citizens would have limits on what types of plans they could buy with their money.
Again, I’m not saying this is reason enough to drop the public option. (I think you could have a public option and still defuse the abortion bomb via this proposal). I’m just pointing out this one ripple effect if the public option were die.