On Monday, Feb. 20, the Hood College Democrats and Republicans were each represented by two debaters on the topic of healthcare.
Representing the republicans were Weston Bimstefer and Brendan Mahoney. Representing the democrats were Paula Del Valle-Torres and Molly Masterson.
In accordance with the typical debate format, there was an overarching topic with three subjects. These subjects were the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide.
The first debated topic was the Affordable Care Act, a topic Bimstefer and Mahoney believed to be one of the most relevant and important.
Aligning with Republican values, the student representatives argued that a market-based approach to health care would be the best plan to replace the repealed ACA.
The logic behind this policy alternative is that market competition will work to drive down the cost of insurance, particularly with the policy of buying across state lines.
They also see this as a tool that will allow consumers to purchase their own unique plans with doctors of their choice.
In a short interview with Mahoney, he stated that he is excited for the future of healthcare under the Trump administration.
“I don’t think it’s going to be driven by Trump,” Mahoney said. “I think it’s going to be driven by Congressional Republicans. They’ve legislated before and have seen what doesn’t work in our healthcare system, and they truly want to make a better one.”
The Democrats opposed the market-based approach, claiming that it would only “secure healthcare for those who can afford it.”
Masterson said that the population class most likely to be without healthcare under a market-based system would be the poor.
The next topic was abortion, which all four debaters said in their interviews was one of the most salient topics. This issue was debated from the standpoint that life begins at conception by the republicans. They affirmed this argument by listing the stages at which brain activity can be detected, heart beats can be heard, and movement can be felt.
“The child is a human being, a member of society,” Mahoney said.
The democrats argued against both arguments by adhering to the legal definition that a fetus is a “person with rights after birth.” To follow, Democrat Del Valle-Torres claimed that “it is the woman who is a citizen with rights to be respected.”
They then discussed the faultiness of the foster care system and lack of adequate resources available to poor mothers, which are apt to be even more inaccessible with conservative dislike for entitlement programs and welfare.
The democratic argument continued with an approach centered on body autonomy for the woman in consideration of her health, the health of the fetus, instances of rape or incest, and financial instability.
“It is the woman who should be able to choose whether or not she will undergo the pain and duress of pregnancy,” Masterson said.
The final topic, physician-assisted suicide, reflected many of the same ethical principles for both the democrats and republicans.
From the republican perspective, the availability of physician-assisted suicide eliminates the possibility that one can find purpose after the diagnosis of a fatal illness.
In opposition, the democrats argued from the perspective of body autonomy and the rights of persons to choose the fate of their own lives.
Audience questions were taken after the debate for the debaters. Though enjoying the format of the debate, all debaters expressed their wish to be able to “rebut answers to audience questions.”
Overall, the debaters and the advisor of both the Hood Democrats and Republicans, Dr. Carin Robinson, believed that the debate inspired thoughtful discourse on relevant issues.
Dr. Robinson remarked about her contentment with the political discussion taking place on campus and her hopes for it to continue.
“The debate format wets the appetite of the Hood College community to be more interested in these topics, to research them themselves, [and] to carry on additional conversations. I think it challenged some peoples’ predispositions. I think some people never even hear the rationales behind opposing viewpoints. I think it’s good for us to be aware of opposing points of view.”