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Is Human Decency Unconstitutional?

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Over the past week, I have written a great deal in newspaper articles, blogs, and news websites about George W. Bush's veto of the highly popular, bipartisan State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would provide health care for uninsured low-income American children.

And I've gotten a fair amount of feedback from readers -- some positive and some negative.

But by far the most interesting response was from a reader who chose to share his feedback with me through a private, anonymous message, instead of posting a public comment on the website where he read my articles, and where other readers could publicly respond to his comments. (That, of course, says much about his confidence in his own views.)

This respondent said that we do not need to provide health care to children because it's not in the U.S. Constitution. When Congress considers legislation, he said, they should stick to the Constitution.

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I think a Civics 101 refresher is in order here.

The Constitution was designed to be a living document. As American society evolves, the Constitution is amended and evolves with us. If we were to stick with the original form of the Constitution when considering legislation, women would not be allowed to vote and rich white men would still own slaves.

The preamble to the Constitution states its purpose as, among other things, to "promote the general welfare". Are we promoting the general welfare of our citizenry if low-income American children are not assured of proper health care?

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I'm not talking about raising our taxes and forming a welfare state. I'm talking about ensuring the well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society, the children who are America's future.

The Constitution also does not say that we must be kind to animals. However, because of that omission, should Michael Vick not be punished for torturing dogs?

Our laws are designed to protect our society and its people. Just as we have laws protecting children from abuse, is it so wrong to protect poor innocent children also from having to suffer, and perhaps die, just because they don't have health care coverage?

When local, state, or federal laws and practices are called into question, the judicial system decides what is, and what is not, constitutional. If my respondent is so sure that children's health insurance is unconstitutional, let him take the matter to the courts. It would be an interesting case to watch.

But, since he is apparently too afraid to even post his opinions in public, I shall not expect to see his name on a federal court docket vs. SCHIP.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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