False Hope and the Stupak Amendment

One reason private health insurance tends to cover abortions is that having an abortion is a lot cheaper than having a baby. Consequently, it kinda sorta seems like the Stupak Amendment might have a limited practical impact. Thus I’ve had thoughts along the lines of this from Mark Kleiman:

But what happens when some of the women you insure get pregnant and wants to terminate? Since perinatal care plus delivery would probably cost you $2500, while a first-trimester abortion costs about $200, you’d be happy to provide the abortion coverage gratis if you thought that otherwise even as many as one in twelve of those women would choose to carry to term. You can’t provide it gratis; that’s what Stupak provides. But you could provide it cheap, even to someone who’s already pregnant. Charge $50 for the abortion-coverage rider, effective immediately.

There seem to me to be logistical questions about this. But I don’t think the profit profit motives quite add up. After all, an abortion is not a hugely expensive medical procedure, and whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term is a major life choice. Consequently, I think we should anticipate the price-elasticity of abortions to be relatively low. In other words, in a Stupaked universe most women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy are just going to take the financial hit, not have the baby. Under the circumstances it doesn’t really make sense for insurance companies to provide the coverage at an actuarial loss.

The big losers here, however, will be the set of poor women who really may not be able to get together the few hundred dollars that would be needed. This is, of course, entirely typical of relatively “soft” abortion restrictions. Very few people are sufficiently hardcore to push for legislative measures that would really and truly make abortions generally unavailable. Instead the tendency is to create situations that leave loopholes for the affluent while making poor women bear the burdens of middle America’s somewhat incoherent moral stance on the issue.