Advocates of religious freedom were outraged on January 20, when the Obama administration announced it would enforce its new mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage in private health-insurance plans without a meaningful conscience exemption. Even most religious organizations can’t qualify for the rule’s incredibly narrow “religious employer” exception, which will remain unchanged. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood have said pro-life organizations are wrong to oppose such mandates: After all, they argue, increasing access to contraception (especially “emergency contraception” or “EC”) will reduce abortion, and don’t we all want that?
This argument conveniently ignores studies showing that such access simply doesn’t reduce abortion rates. For example, out of 23 studies on the effects of increased access to ECs, not one study could show a reduction in unintended pregnancies or abortions. It also ignores the fact that at least one EC drug covered by the mandate, “Ella,” is a close analogue to the abortion pill RU-486; both drugs can induce abortion weeks into pregnancy.
But the final proof that this mandate was sold using cynical falsehoods has just been unveiled.
On January 26, a house committee in the Washington State legislature approved what may become the nation’s first-ever law forcing private health-insurance plans to cover abortion through all stages of pregnancy. This “Reproductive Parity Act” states that any health-insurance plan providing “coverage for maternity care or services” must prove “substantially equivalent coverage” for “the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.” It seems that if a health-insurance plan will cover a full-term live birth, it must also pay for a late-term abortion.
Hailed in the Huffington Post as “groundbreaking” by “reproductive rights” advocate Laura Bassett, the bill is being promoted by the local affiliates of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America — the same groups that endorsed the birth-control mandate and claimed it would reduce abortions.
If mandating coverage of contraception is expected to increase use of contraception (in an effort to reduce abortions), presumably mandating coverage of abortion will increase the use of abortion. Supporting both mandates may seem inconsistent. The inconsistency disappears if we recognize that these organizations support both policies in order to reduce live births, on the assumption that this will mean a better America. Most unintended pregnancies end in live births rather than abortions, so a contraceptive mandate will likely reduce births more than it reduces abortion.
The Washington bill, in requiring insurance plans to treat childbirth and abortion identically, represents a pro-abortion ideology in its purest and most extreme form: It suggests a belief that abortion is the moral equivalent of childbirth, that killing is the same as healing. And that bizarre view must be imposed on everyone who offers, sponsors, or buys insurance — they must provide and pay for abortion on demand as though they believed it too.
That ideology must be imposed by law to get anywhere at all — because few people, left to their own devices, would give it the time of day. About half of Americans identify themselves as “pro-life”; more than half see abortion as “morally wrong”; and most Americans oppose public funding of abortion and would choose not to have it covered in their health plan. Most doctors and hospitals, regardless of secular or religious affiliation, do not perform abortions — in one recent survey, only 14 percent of ob/gyns said they ever perform abortions — and 87 percent of U.S. counties have no identifiable abortion provider. Among the general public as well as the medical profession, abortion is a painful reality, a moral problem, and an embarrassment — a wrong that, at most, some see as a necessary evil. If you are committed to making it a mandatory aspect of basic health care for all, the coercive power of the state is your only option. And of course that has nothing to do with respecting freedom of choice.
Supporters of the bill offer yet another argument why it is needed — and that argument is a tissue-thin pretext. They say most insurers in Washington already cover abortion, and new legislation is needed to “retain” the coverage that already exists in the face of the new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and President Obama’s executive order on that law.