A new study just released by the Guttmacher Institute (pdf; news release here) determined that “approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable.”
Whatever the actual number of women who are essentially forced to give birth due to a lack of funding for abortion is, as a percentage it’s a gigantic and terrifying figure.
Of course, such news is likely to be cheered by advocates of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal dollars from funding abortion, and similar state funding restrictions. The results, after all, were incredibly easy to predict, and while they are indeed shocking they’re not hugely surprising.
What it goes to prove that restrictions on abortion funding aren’t really about ensuring that a woman’s reproductive choices aren’t funded by those who may disagree with them. (After all, there are assholes out there who think that it’s “wrong” for women to give birth under “certain” circumstances, but we still fund prenatal and birth care.) It’s about ensuring that women without their own funds don’t get to actually make a choice at all. It’s about forcing women to give birth because they have no other option.
Since anti-choicers have been unable to institute an outright ban, they go the way of restrictions which, as all abortion-related restrictions do, only impact economically disadvantaged women. They’re the only ones for whom a few hundred dollars in the way can make such a life-altering decision. And since the class system is still structured rather strongly along racial lines, it’s also having a disproportionate impact on women of color. Indeed, a North Carolina study cited in this same Guttmacher paper showed that when public funding for abortions was made available, there was a 10% increase in abortions among black women, compared to a 1% increase among white women.
Currently, only 17 states fund all or most medically necessary abortions. The rest (with the exception of South Dakota, which is in breach of federal law), only cover abortions in the case of rape/incest or life endangerment. So, as the ACLU blog astutely notes, the women mentioned above who would have had Medicaid funded abortions given the option but instead gave birth also includes women with health-threatening conditions (such as cancer or heart disease, to name only two of many) that pregnancy poses an increased risk to.
Last week, I posted about anti-choice efforts to exclude abortion funding from proposed health care reform legislation. The good news is that some of those efforts just failed in committee — hopefully indicating a willingness of all but the most anti-choice Democrats to stand up for women’s rights and health. The bad news is that anti-choice legislators will have plenty of opportunities left to try to reinsert such provisions. And they likely will. After all, as the information above proves, such efforts have served their goals quite well.