Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Abortion in the US

with 3 comments

Jeffrey Toobin has an interesting essay in the New Yorker:

Abortion is almost as old as childbirth. There has always been a need for some women to end their pregnancies. In modern times, the law’s attitude toward that need has varied. In the United States, at the time the Constitution was adopted, abortions before “quickening” were both legal and commonplace, often performed by midwives. In the nineteenth century, under the influence of the ascendant medical profession, which opposed abortion (and wanted to control health care), states began to outlaw the procedure, and by the turn of the twentieth century it was all but uniformly illegal. The rise of the feminist movement led to widespread efforts to decriminalize abortion, and in 1973 the Supreme Court found, in Roe v. Wade, that the Constitution prohibited the states from outlawing it.

Throughout this long legal history, the one constant has been that women have continued to have abortions. The rate has declined slightly in recent years, but, according to the Guttmacher Institute, thirty-five per cent of all women of reproductive age in America today will have had an abortion by the time they are forty-five. It might be assumed that such a common procedure would be included in a nation’s plan to protect the health of its citizens. In fact, the story of abortion during the past decade has been its separation from other medical services available to women. Abortion, as the academics like to say, is being marginalized.

The latest evidence comes from the House of Representatives, which two weekends ago narrowly passed its health-care bill, by a vote of 220 to 215. One reason that the Democrats won back control of Congress is that the Party adopted a “big tent” philosophy on abortion. The implications of that approach became clear when, during the health-care vote, the House considered a last-minute amendment by Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, which proposed scrubbing the bill of government subsidies for abortion procedures. It passed 240 to 194, with sixty-four Democrats voting in favor.

A clear understanding of the structure of the health-care proposals currently under consideration shows why the Stupak amendment is such a threat to abortion rights. At the heart of the proposals is the idea of an exchange, where consumers will be able to select among competing insurance plans. Theoretically, the exchange will increase consumer choice, promote competition, and (somewhat more theoretically) lower costs for everyone. If there is a public option, it will be offered through the exchange. At first, many of the people using the exchange will be those who are unable to pay for health insurance on their own. For them, the government will offer a sliding scale of subsidies. It is largely these subsidies which will increase the availability of insurance; estimates of how many people will gain coverage vary, but it may be close to forty million.

Restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion go back to the Hyde amendment, which became law more than thirty years ago; for example, there has long been a ban on abortions under Medicaid or in military hospitals. But the implications of the Stupak amendment are broader, because of the structure of the exchange. To start with, Stupak states that anyone who buys insurance with a government subsidy cannot choose a plan that covers abortion, even if that person receives only a small subsidy, and even if only a tiny portion of the full premium goes for abortion care. And the influence of the amendment reaches beyond the recipients of federal subsidies. Stupak would prohibit the public option from offering any plans that cover abortion. Further, it is expected that each year more Americans will use the exchange, including people who don’t need subsidies, but under the Stupak amendment insurance companies would have no incentive to offer those people coverage for abortion services, since doing so might cost them the business of subsidized customers. Today, most policies cover abortion; in a post-Stupak world, they probably won’t. With a health-care plan that is supposed to increase access and lower costs, the opposite would be true with respect to abortion. And that, of course, is what legislators like Stupak want—to make abortions harder, and more expensive, to obtain. Stupak and his allies were willing to kill the whole bill to get their way; the liberals in the House were not…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2009 at 12:10 pm

3 Responses

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  1. To me, it is two separate and unique human beings.

    Size doesn’t matter.


    19 November 2009 at 3:14 pm

  2. So you oppose all abortion, even when the fetus is nothing more than a handful of cells. I understand your position. I don’t share it, and in fact (if you look at the practicalities), outlawing abortions has extremely bad social effects, since women who really feel that cannot afford (socially or economically) to give birth WILL get abortions. We know this from history, and also that those illegal abortions are often a terrible mess with bad consequences for everyone. Is that really what you want? Only illegal abortions?


    19 November 2009 at 3:19 pm

  3. I notice that my position on legalizing marijuana is similar to my position on abortion: by legalizing, the whole thing becomes much safer, better regulated, and with no money flowing to criminals. I think that’s a rational posture.


    19 November 2009 at 3:21 pm

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