New York Times house editorials on sanctity-of-life issues sometimes read like Planned Parenthood press releases, and Tuesday’s editorial, which condemns efforts in Kansas to prevent health-insurance policies from covering abortion services, is certainly no exception. Interestingly, the Times completely fails to realize that the primary culprit is Obamacare. Health-care reform has made it easier for states to restrict abortion through insurance regulations. The fact that states are facing federal mandates to expand Medicaid eligibility and the fact that government funds will be subsidizing insurance plans through the various exchanges give pro-lifers another avenue to restrict abortion. The Times also fails to realize that these efforts are partly defensive measures, since government subsidies of abortion may well increase abortion rates.
The New York Times editorial applauds the ACLU, which has filed a lawsuit in the hopes of having the law declared unconstitutional. The ACLU is arguing that the ban on abortion coverage is equivalent to sex discrimination because it prevents women from buying plans covering all of their health-care needs while imposing no limitations on the medical needs of men. But the argument is unpersuasive. A number of reproductive-rights groups have made this exact argument in various legal efforts to require states (and the federal government) to fund abortion through Medicaid. Few of these lawsuits have met with much success.
At the end of the editorial, the New York Times huffs that the pro-life movement should not be allowed to enact these restrictions. However, partly because of pro-life gains in the court of public opinion and partly because of the growing body of evidence of the negative health consequences of abortion, courts have been generally willing to allow for increasing state-level regulation of abortion. Given that Roe v. Wade has yet to be overturned, these state-level regulations continue to be a wise strategy for grassroots pro-lifers.
— Michael New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan – Dearborn and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.