Monday, October 08, 2007

Abortion and health insurance

I must say I don't understand the abortion controversy. Or rather, I don't understand how it is playing out in the political arena. There seem to be three groups on this issue.

1) Pro-lifers. Abortion sucks. It is wrong, and in fact is every bit as wrong as choking a 3-year-old to death. We ought to prevent abortions in any way possible, including the use of the long arm of the criminal law.

2) Abortion sucks. But it may not be as wrong as choking a 3-year-old to death. The loss of a fetus is a tragic loss, but not on the scale of the loss of a born baby. However, we should keep the long arm of the criminal law out of it, since this would involve an inappropriate interference in the doctor-patient relationship.

3) Abortion doesn't suck at all. It's like removing a blob of tissue.

Now in my life I have gone back and forth between 1 and 2. But it seems odd. Surely the 1s and the 2s outnumber the 3s. Shouldn't these two sides work together to find public policies that will discourage abortion? Do pro-lifer political leaders prefer passing ideological litmus tests to preventing real abortions.

Now consider two possible futures.

1) Roe v. Wade is overturned, but we never achieve universal health insurance coverage for all children.

2) Roe is never overturned, but universal health insurance is assured for every child.

In which world, do you think, there will be fewer abortions? Remember that overturning Roe will not make any abortions illegal. It may prevent two abortions in Mississippi, but that is about all. Since abortions are far less expensive than taking care of children, isn't it likely that universal health care for children will result in fewer abortions than overturning Roe?


Sturgeon's Lawyer said...

It seems clear to me that a future with some kind of health insurance for all children (or even all people) is more likely to lower abortion rates ...

... just as, historically, abortion rates have gone up during administrations that advocated cutting social programs, and down during administrations that promoted them. I probably lean more left than I would like to admit, but I am no partisan; I only observe that one thing seems to have the desired result and the other does not.

It is my sincere belief that, just as some of the loudest anti-gay politicians are secretly gay, many of the loudest pro-life politicians secretly do not give a flyspeck for the sacredness of life, and do not want to see abortion made illegal, as it would deprive them of a key issue.

Jason Pratt said...

I can't believe I'm about to comment on this... {g} But:

At the time RvW was passed, all states had at least some limits on abortion; the point to RvW (and an equally important case soon afterward whose name I've forgotten) was that it was unconstitutional for states to make laws regarding any limits on abortion.

If RvW goes down, then either laws currently on the books but currently void will be enforced again, or else laws struck down in the meanwhile will be legal for drafting again.

The upshot is that it's somewhat overstating the case to say that taking down RvW will make a totally negligant difference in the number of abortions: mothers will (in all likelihood) be again required on a state by state basis to have an abortion early or not at all, if they insist on having one. That's where things were before RvW, and where things generally are in other civilized nations (even highly secular ones). If there is any evidence that the number of abortions per capita has _not_ significantly increased post Roe, all I can say is that I'm not personally aware of such studies, and the impression I get from everyone (pro and con) goes the other direction.

It is of course possible that the full abortion lobbyists may succeed on a state by state basis in convincing voters to allow full range of abortions. But that'll be up to voters in each state, which is how the laws originally got on the books anyway--and how they could be taken off again if the lobbyists win a majority opinion.

Much of the full abortion lobbyist position is built on using full abortion as a rhetorical prop for promoting other ideological issues, though; and I think polls have demonstrated since the time of the ruling (not to say before then!) that the popular majority is strongly in favor of at least _some_ serious limitations on abortions. Between these two facts, the lobbyists will have an uphill battle, I think.

This is completely aside from universal health care for children, which I'm inclined to support so long as a workable system can be put in place for it. Which I'm slightly dubious about, at this time, but I agree it's something worth working toward.