A proposed law blocking federal funding of abortion would be a big step towards “women's health” and a true “women's agenda,” experts told members of Congress at a recent hearing.
“It's time once and for all to settle the matter of abortion funding across federal legislation and move on to a real women's agenda,” said Helen Alvare, law professor at George Mason University.
Alvare testified Jan. 9 at a congressional subcommittee hearing alongside Susan Woods, an associate professor of health policy at George Washington University, and Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
The hearing addressed H.R. 7, known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The proposed legislation would prohibit the use of federal funds for any support of abortion in the United States.
For nearly 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has been added to federal appropriations bills in order to prevent federal funds from being used for most abortions. However, pro-life politicians argue that it has been implemented inconsistently and note that it does allowing funding of abortion in limited cases.
Most recently, controversy has arisen over fungible federal funding of organizations that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, as well as health care plans purchased under the Affordable Care Act that cover abortion.
Planned Parenthood's 2012-2013 fiscal report has drawn criticism from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, which issued an analysis charging that the organization received $540.6 million in taxpayer funding, reporting $58.2 million in excess revenue, and more than $1.3 billion in net assets.
In 2012, Planned Parenthood performed 327,166 abortions, bringing the total number of abortions performed by the organization to nearly 1 million since 2002.
In addition, the Susan B. Anthony List said, abortions composed 93.8 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, while prenatal care and adoption comprised only 5.6 percent of these services – a 32 percent drop from the 2011-2011 fiscal year.
Doerflinger also argued that several sections of the Affordable Care Act bypass the Hyde Amendment in appropriating their own funds for plans covering abortions.
“Americans are finding it difficult to find a plan without abortion coverage or even to get clear answers as to which plans those are,” he said, adding that many families “may be forced by the government to subsidize other people’s abortions as a condition for obtaining the health care their families need.”
Passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, he underscored, “would prevent problems and confusions on abortion funding in future legislation,” allowing bills to be “debated in terms of their ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates” surrounding abortion.
Doerflinger also addressed concerns that the bill would challenge “private coverage for abortion.” Based purely on fiscal calculation, “insurance companies have an economic incentive to include abortion coverage, and they do it,” he observed. “Abortion is cheaper than a live baby.”
Alvare charged that, given current research and legal decisions, “abortion is not part of any women's health agenda” and should not be covered as health care.
She pointed to instances in which prominent abortion advocates have acknowledged abortion to be a “gruesome” procedure that ends a human life.
In addition, she observed, European studies on hundreds of thousands of women are finding links between abortion and various health issues, challenging the appropriateness of classifying abortion as a “women's health” procedure.
Furthermore, Alvare said, polls indicate that women are “more pro-life than men,” and “the poor are more pro-life than the wealthy.”
This means that “the well-off support abortion funding for the poor more than the poor support abortion funding for themselves,” she explained, pointing out that “refusing to fund something is not doing away with something” and prohibiting federal funding of abortion is not dismantling the procedure in the country.
When negative health risks are considered alongside the poor's opposition to abortion funding, it becomes apparent that banning federal funding of abortion would “serve women” and allow for a greater focus on the issues that matter most to women, Alvare said.