Last Friday, the New York Times ran an article about state efforts to restrict abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges mandated by Obamacare. Indeed, eight states — Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia — have already banned abortion coverage for any state-based plan that would take part in the exchange. Furthermore, according to Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a total of 28 states are considering such laws.
Much of the article is written to make it appear as if coverage of abortion is common in health-insurance plans and pro-lifers are using health-care reform as an opportunity to place further restrictions on abortion. However, this is misleading. First, many health-care plans do not cover abortion. The Guttmacher study cited in the article is contradicted by a 2003 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that only 46 percent of workers have coverage for abortion services.
The article also claims that, under the language of both the health-care-reform legislation and the executive order accompanying it, taxpayer dollars are already prevented from paying for abortions. However, under Obamacare, taxpayer dollars will subsidize insurance plans which cover abortion. Since money is fungible, taxpayer dollars will in fact be subsidizing abortion. As for the executive order, numerous analysts have deemed it ineffective. Not surprisingly, the Times article extensively quotes a Guttmacher policy analyst who is critical of these state-based efforts. Scant attention is paid to pro-life perspectives.
During the past year, the most effective opposition to Obamacare has come from the states. Over 27 states joined the lawsuit over Obamacare’s constitutionality, and the eight states highlighted in the Times article have used the flexibility they were granted to ban abortion coverage in their respective health-insurance exchanges. Hopefully more states will follow their lead.
— Michael J. New is a professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.