The debate over Obamacare last spring raised the issue of abortion coverage in health-insurance plans. This is more prevalent than many people realize. Last spring, reports indicated that anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent of privately held insurance plans cover abortion services. Even worse, a recently released study by Students for Life of America (SFLA) indicates that abortion is covered by many student insurance plans offered by leading colleges and universities.
The SFLA study carefully researched the health-insurance plans offered by the 200 largest colleges in the United States. The findings were astonishing. Of the 200 schools studied, 86 offered health-insurance plans that cover abortion. Even worse, 38 schools automatically enroll students into a plan which covers abortion. Now, in many cases students can opt out. However, many will not because they are unaware these plans cover abortion or simply because school-sponsored health plans often cost less than commercial plans. This study clearly reveals that many students and taxpayers are unknowingly subsidizing abortion on college campuses across America.
From a social-science perspective, the findings were interesting. Many of the schools that automatically enroll students in plans that cover abortion are Ivy League schools like Harvard, Columbia, or the University of Pennsylvania, or are located in the Northeast or on the west coast. Colleges in the South were less likely to cover abortion in their health-care plans. However, there were some exceptions. The SFLA study found that the University of Virginia and a number of public universities in North Carolina automatically enroll students into a health-care plan that covers abortion.
This is certainly an issue that pro-life activists should take up in their respective state legislatures. College students typically have little in the way of discretionary income. As such, subsidizing abortion through insurance policies makes it far more likely that a student facing an unplanned pregnancy would submit to an abortion.
Furthermore, there are some interesting policy implications here. Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) recently introduced H.R. 3, “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which would enact a permanent, government-wide prohibition on funding of both abortion and health plans that cover abortion. Considering that nearly all colleges and universities accept students who have Pell Grants, the passage of this legislation could conceivably force universities to drop abortion coverage from their health-insurance plans.
Throughout last spring’s debate over health-care reform, it was clear that a vast majority of Americans did not want their taxpayer dollars subsidizing abortion. In fact, this concerted opposition by pro-life groups was the most difficult political obstacle that the Obama administration had to overcome in order to enact health-care reform. This study from SFLA provides important additional evidence in the debate over cutting off taxpayer funding for abortion.
— Michael New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.