Last week I brought up again (New Abortion Law Full of Contradictions an argument I originally made last July, in which I pointed out that the success of liberals in reducing the number of abortions by means of education, birth control and family planning was much greater than the successes that conservatives have had by trying to ban it. I wrote in that post,
Abortion opponents like those in the South Dakota legislature need to keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to oppose something besides banning it. But maybe they are too narrow in their views to think of any.
The purpose of this post is to help out myopically focused conservatives by suggesting another way they could fight it. It is inspired by some research I ran across while I was responding to a post on Rum, Romanism and Rebellion. The specific article I ran across was this study of the socioeconomic profile of women who have abortions published by the Guttmacher Institute.
One thing that I discovered while reading the study (although, anecdotally I have known this for a long time) is that there is a direct relationship between a woman's financial situation and the likelihood that she will have an abortion rather than carry a pregnancy to term.
Now conservatives will certainly jump on the line in the report that indicates that women who receive medicaid are more likely to get an abortion, as proof that the fact that medicaid funds some abortions, makes it more likely that women will get one. True, in fact, but to do so misses the larger point: that this is only one example of the fact that women of limited means are likely to consider cost as a factor in whether to get an abortion. The study goes on beyond that and finds that there is a very direct linkage between income and abortion rates, even as high as 200% of the poverty line, where few if any women are on medicaid, but there are still very many who lack health insurance, and in particular women who lack health insurance are more likely to get abortions.
To begin with, even a healthy pregnancy and normal delivery at a typical hospital is likely to cost $3,000 when one adds up the bills for the hospital, the maternity ward, the obstetrician, the anaesthesiologist and the various other technicians involved. And if there is even a small complication, these costs can grow exponentially (for example, I had a friend whose wife delivered a baby in 2000 that required an operation to correct a defect; he had no insurance, and by the time they were done, he had a $17,000 bill). For most women who are facing a tough financial situation, the choice between $500 today (the approximate cost of an abortion even if there is no insurance payment) and $3000 minimum at a hospital in a few months, is a clear one. For financial reasons alone, abortion is likely to be the preferred choice. In the study it points out that 73% of women who get an abortion have previously been pregnant; 12% have had a previous abortion but never a birth (36% have had both before). This means that 61% of women who get an abortion have already borne one or more children, so it is not like they are against having children. But it is entirely possible, as the study shows, that they may not be able to afford another one right now. Adoption is an alternative that some women choose, but many don't want to have to go through nine months of pregnancy just to sign their child over to another person, and the idea that they might do this for the specific reason that they wouldn't have to pay a large bill at the hospital (it is legal for adoptive parents to pay all expenses) comes perilously close to baby selling.
As such, I would like to ask conservatives if they would object to a very limited but very complete universal coverage bill: a bill which covers all hospital, physician, technician and prescription costs associated with pregnancy, delivery and if necessary complications directly arising from pregnancy and birth, including to correct birth defects and any complications arising to the mother (in fact, maybe even paying for it via a tax on abortions.) Of course, abortion would be unaffected by the bill and would still cost what it does today, about $500 unless insurance will cover it (plus maybe a small increase due to the tax mentioned a moment ago.) This would not eliminate the long term economic impact of having more kids, but would certainly address the needs of those women who are choosing abortion because they are uninsured and are certain they can't afford a delivery.
It seems to me that if this were the case, then the at least the short term economic incentive for abortion would be removed. So I'm asking, conservatives, if you are against abortion, is this a measure you could support?