Yesterday I appeared on Southern California Public Radio’s program Air Talk alongside Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America in a discussion about two proposed bill in the House of Representatives designed to close the loopholes for abortion funding created by the Obamacare legislation signed into law last year. You can listen to the exchange here.
The issue that seemed to bother Keenan the most was a provision in HR 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” that would eliminate tax deductions for dollars spent on abortion insurance coverage. Several times Keenan repeated the claim that “87% of health plans cover abortion.”
How Many Abortions Are Covered by Insurance?
That statistic sounded fishy to me, so today I did a little research and found that Keenan is at best obscuring the truth. Turns out that there isn’t any certainty how many health plans cover abortion right now.
A July 2009 memo from the Guttmacher Institute notes two studies that came up with very different numbers. Guttmacher themselves found 87%—Keenan’s preferred statistic—of health plans cover abortion. But the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 46% of workers with insurance have abortion coverage.
Of course, these are rather different questions—the number of plans doesn’t line up with the number of insured people, since some plans are very large and some very small. But the bottom line is that nobody really knows what percentage of Americans have abortion coverage.
That said, it’s likely that at least half of all insurance programs cover abortion to some degree, and similarly roughly half of Americans (perhaps more) have abortion coverage in their plans.
However, a more telling number is found in that same Guttmacher memo: only 13% of abortions were billed to insurance providers.
Do the math and you find that fully 87% of abortions were paid for directly by women themselves. Interesting that Keenan’s “87%” shows up here on the other side of the equation from where she wanted it to be.
Even if some of these woman later received reimbursement from their insurance companies for their abortions, it seems very likely—as Guttmacher notes—that many women who have insurance coverage for abortion choose not to use it.
Real Issue Isn’t Tax Deductions: It’s Killing the Hyde Amendment
Clearly insurance coverage of abortion—and the ability to deduct money spent on that coverage from their taxable income—just isn’t as important to women as Keenan claims.
It’s not even that important to Keenan herself. When I asked whether she’d keep opposing HR 3 if the deductibity provision were removed, she adamantly said no, calling the bill an extreme piece of “anti-choice” legislation designed to deprive women of “abortion care.”
In general, Keenan wasn’t interested in talking about the facts. She claims that no federal dollars are going for abortion anyway; if that were true, H.R. 3 would be nothing but a silly waste of time by Congressional Republicans, so why throw so much effort into defeating it?
Keenan knows better: Obamacare seeks to overturn, through accounting slight-of-hand, the long-standing compromise on abortion funding that has been in place through the Hyde Amendment since 1976, and which abortion advocates have been working to remove ever since.
HR 3 and a companion bill, HR 358, the “Protect Life Act”—which we also discussed on the program—seek to close those loopholes and keep taxpayers from paying for abortion.
If Abortion Is a Private Matter, Keep it Private
Keenan wants to have it both ways. She insists that abortion is a “private decision” between “a woman and her doctor and her god,” and yet is demanding that the public help pay for that decision.
My response: If abortion is a private matter, then keep it private. Don’t ask the American public to pay for those abortions through federal funding or by granting tax deductions for abortion coverage. That’s what HR 3 and HR 358 are really about.