Why pro-lifers aren’t pro-HCR

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Expanding health coverage reduces abortions. That’s what T.R. Reid argues in today’s WaPo, and it’s a powerful argument. Look at our peer countries in the developed world. All have universal health coverage and most include abortion in that coverage and all have lower rates of abortion than we do. Why? On the front end, women have access to contraceptive services; on the back end, they know there will be health coverage for them and their babies if they carry to term. So, says Reid:

For various reasons, then, expanding health-care coverage reduces the
rate of abortion. All the other industrialized democracies figured that
out years ago. The failure to recognize this plain statistical truth may
explain why American churches have played such a small role in our
national debate on health care. Searching for ways to limit abortions,
our faith leaders have managed to overlook a proven approach that’s on
offer now: expanding health-care coverage.

The only thing wrong with that paragraph is that it assumes that the pro-life faith leaders he’s talking about are focused on reducing the number of abortions. That’s the same mistake, I’m afraid, that the Obamaite “common ground” folks also make. But what’s become clear over the past year is that the pro-lifers who oppose HCR not merely as a pretext are concerned with principle and personal purity, not abortion reduction. That is to say, they want to push the principle of “no public funding for abortions” as far as they can because 1) it helps establish the idea that abortion is disapproved of by the government; and 2) it permits them to believe that none of “their” taxpayer dollars are going to pay for abortions.

They will no doubt claim that if their efforts bear fruit in the long run, abortion will be banned and the abortion rate will go down big time. In fact, however, there is little correlation between abortion rates and the legal status of abortion. The strong correlation is between abortion legality and abortion safety. Where abortion is legal, abortions are safe; where it’s not, women die. What’s important to recognize is that that’s a price a lot of hard-line pro-lifers are prepared to pay.