Republicans in the House have now repealed health care reform and introduced a new bill to ensure, as they put it, that tax payers are “no longer are coerced” into subsidizing “the killing of an unborn child.” But a study from 2010 analyzing the impact of Massachusetts’ health reform on abortion rates suggests that the GOP’s strong opposition to universal coverage may do more to kill “an unborn child” than anything in the Affordable Care Act. According to that report, “the number of abortions in Massachusetts declined by 1.5 percent during the first two years of the new health care program (2007-2009) and the decline was 7.4 percent among teenagers — even though the percentage of non-elderly people receiving coverage went up nearly 6 percent.” The researcher Patrick Whelan points out that this occurred despite the state’s coverage of abortion services:
Massachusetts is one of 17 states that provide full coverage for abortion under the state Medicaid program (MassHealth) for the poorest residents, and abortion is a covered service under all the Commonwealth Care plans that cover the next tier of income earners. Yet in this midsized, ethnically diverse state, full insurance coverage of abortion services for all lower-income residents did not result in an increase in the number of abortions performed. I believe it is reasonable to conclude that the possibility of some federal subsidization of overall care, for a fraction of the additional 31 million people who would be covered, would not mean a significant or even a likely increase in the number of abortions performed nationally.
As T.R. Reid has noted, women contemplating an abortion are far less likely to seek one if they can afford health insurance for themselves, and feel confident they can provide quality medical care to their newborn children. That is why in Western democracies where abortion services are free and more accessible than in America, abortion rates are actually significantly lower than in the United States. Unfortunately, Republicans typically dismiss this uncomfortable comparison.