The Corner

Health Care and Abortion

Michael New is much too kind to T. R. Reid’s absurd WaPo op-ed on why pro-lifers should support the health-care bill. Reid supplies only two pieces of evidence for his view that the bill would drive down the abortion rate. Both are pathetically weak. The first is that some countries with universal health insurance have lower abortion rates than the U.S. does. (Some don’t, as New points out.) The second is that when he researched his book on health systems, “some people” in every country with universal health insurance said it reduced the abortion rate. That’s it.

Nowhere in the piece does Reid even discuss how the health-care bill before Congress covers abortion, which you would think would be relevant to his argument. He writes only that “opponents of abortion are fighting against expanded health-care coverage”—which is grossly misleading—and that their position is “illogical.” By the end of the piece he is claiming that “expanded health-care coverage. . . has been proved around the world to limit abortions.” Proved!

New supplies actual evidence—some of it from the U.S.—that expanding health coverage has no such effect.

Reid also quotes Cardinal Basil Hume, formerly “the senior Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales.” Cardinal Hume may well be a “wise and holy man,” as Reid says, but his comment to Reid does little to justify the first adjective. Asked why the Brits have a lower abortion rate than the U.S., Cardinal Hume responds, “If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?” Well maybe Cardinal Hume had never heard of Medicaid or S-Chip. Maybe Reid should have filled him in?

 Somehow I get the feeling that if Reid’s prediction proves false—if Obamacare passes and the abortion rate rises—he’s not actually going to lose any sleep over it.

Update: Timothy Noah thinks Reid’s column was brilliant. I’m sure he’d write an anguished mea culpa too.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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