New York, NY —ANCHOR: the bush administration says it will extend a health insurance program for poor children to cover unborn children, beginning at conception. advocates on both sides of the abortion issue argue see it as a way to define life as beginning at conception under the law, despite roe versus wade. Wnyc’s brian lehrer has been thinking about what he might tell the government’s newest beneficiaries if he were a child health plus benefits counsellor.
BRIAN: First of all, congratulations kids. You’re proper people now. The bush administration says the child health plus program, which provides health insurance to moderately poor children, will cover you too, right from conception. They could have gotten you in by simply covering your pregnant mothers like some STATES have done, but they wanted to make a point. so fetuses, embryos, blastocysts, you’re all in. welcome aboard.
Gotta tell you though. You’re starting out life in a government benefit program. and these days that means not just rights but responsibilities.
Your first assignment then: please tell your mothers that you will need a name as soon as possible. Since you’re the benefits recipient, we’ll need to register you and your mom under your name. And I’m sure you can understand, we can’t have millions of recipients going by embryo A, embryo B, embryo C. there are only 26 letters. and besides, now that you’re a person under the law, a mother’s failure to provide you with a proper name could be considered a form of child abuse or neglect. in that event, the government reserves the right to take youfrom your mother and bring you to term in a government incubator, where a name will be provided for you.
some of your parents may complain that they can’t choose a name for you yet because you are too young to have your sex determined. But in these androgynous times, there are plenty of gender-neutral names your parents can choose, like terry and pat. Urge your parents to be creative.
Also, to be enrolled in a government benefits program, you will need a social security number. beginning march first, we will have new numbers available, so please make sure your parents have named you by then.
The government has not previously issued social security numbers to embryos, so you’ll have to bear with us while we iron out some bugs in the system. one of those bugs: on your enrollment forms, you will see a box labelled date of birth. Please disregard that. We will be issuing new forms that ask for your date of conception. If your parents do not know the exact date of conception, don’t worry, we’ll approximate it using a sonogram.
This will be especially important for those of you made eligible for this health benefit by the enron collapse. If you were conceived on or before december 2nd, when enron filed for bakruptcy, you are eligible for this benefit. If you were conceived on december first or before, ENRON is liable for your health insurance and you will have to get your parents to sue the company. Please do your best to determine your precise date of conception.
Finally, those of you conceived before january first may be wondering whether your parents will be eligible to claim you as a dependent to get a deduction on their 2001 tax returns. The answer is no. we may be pro-life, but we’re not stupid.