The Corner

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National Health Care and Abortion, Ctd.


On RhRealityCheck, Robin Marty attempts to take issue with my argument that universal health care will not reduce abortion rates. In particular, I argue that Tennessee’s spending on TennCare during the 1990s coupled with its below-average abortion decline is good evidence that more generous health benefits will do little to reduce abortion rates.

Seeing that there is not much in the way of actual data to support her position, Marty decides to . . . change the subject! She turns her attention to pro-life laws. She states that since Tennessee has both parental-involvement laws and an informed-consent law, it should have seen its abortion rates drop quickly during the 1990s if my views are correct.

Marty’s criticisms are weak. It is true that Tennessee did enact a parental-involvement law in the late 1990s. But since parental-involvement laws only have a direct effect on minors and since minors only account for 10-15 percent of all abortions, parental-involvement laws do not often have a large impact on overall abortion rates.

Tennessee’s informed-consent law it took effect in 1992 well before TennCare was enacted. I should also note that Tennessee’s law is not one of the stronger laws in effect. Unlike the laws in Pennsylvania and Mississippi, it does not require that women make two separate trips to the abortion provider.

Like almost every other columnist for RhRealityCheck, Marty ends her article by talking about prevention and calling for more government support for contraceptives. However, the only evidence she provides is anecdotal, namely that one British woman received a free diaphragm or IUD when she went to the doctor. Unfortunately for Marty, actual research provides little evidence that more spending on contraceptives has any effect on abortion rates.

Several years ago, the Guttmacher Institute took a survey of sexually active women who were not using contraception. Only a very small percentage cited either cost or lack of availability as a reason why they were not using contraceptives. As such, it seems unlikely that more spending on contraceptives — on top of the programs already in effect — would have much of an effect on abortion rates.

It is also unsurprising that contraception is always the only prevention strategy of any interest to Marty and the other writers at RhRealityCheck. For instance, greater sexual restraint never even merits a mention.