The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Does universal health care reduce abortions?

posted by jmcgee

Here’s one provocative take on the debate now raging in this country, from T.R. Reid in the Washington Post:

The latest United Nations comparative statistics, available at http://data.un.org, demonstrate the point clearly. The U.N. data measure the number of abortions for women ages 15 to 44. They show that Canada, for example, has 15.2 abortions per 1,000 women; Denmark, 14.3; Germany, 7.8; Japan, 12.3; Britain, 17.0; and the United States, 20.8. When it comes to abortion rates in the developed world, we’re No. 1.

No one could argue that Germans, Japanese, Brits or Canadians have more respect for life or deeper religious convictions than Americans do. So why do they have fewer abortions?

One key reason seems to be that all those countries provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost. That has a profound effect on women contemplating what to do about an unwanted pregnancy.

The connection was explained to me by a wise and holy man, Cardinal Basil Hume. He was the senior Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales when I lived in London; as a reporter and a Catholic, I got to know him.

In Britain, only 8 percent of the population is Catholic (compared with 25 percent in the United States). Abortion there is legal. Abortion is free. And yet British women have fewer abortions than Americans do. I asked Cardinal Hume why that is.

The cardinal said that there were several reasons but that one important explanation was Britain’s universal health-care system. “If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed,” Hume explained, “she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”

A young woman I knew in Britain added another explanation. “If you’re [sexually] active,” she said, “the way to avoid abortion is to avoid pregnancy. Most of us do that with an IUD or a diaphragm. It means going to the doctor. But that’s easy here, because anybody can go to the doctor free.”

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.

There’s much more at the WaPo link.



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Jjoe

posted March 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm


Thanks for those statistics. They are the first I’ve seen and a welcome addition to the discussion.
Unfortunately statistics and facts don’t seem to change anyone’s mind. It’s obvious that lack of universal health care kills children, but the debate over health care reform isn’t about lives, it’s about money.



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Dana MacKenzie

posted March 16, 2010 at 11:00 pm


Of course, these numbers could have something to do with the fact that birth control is free and a huge part of the health care system, including surgical birth control.
Every rose has a thorn.



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kenneth

posted March 16, 2010 at 11:42 pm


It’s data worth considering, but I also doubt it will change the dynamics of the debate. That’s because most of the “pro-life” movement’s agenda has nothing whatsoever to do with saving lives. It’s about power. They would rather see abortions double every year than allow people access to birth control, even if that were guaranteed to reduce the abortion rate by 90%. Their minimum bid is absolute national prohibition of abortion (even though that doesn’t really reduce abortion rates). Short of that, they don’t want to do anything that would compromise their agenda of social control, even if it reduces abortions. Abortion is their source of political and financial power.



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KDL

posted March 17, 2010 at 8:15 am


Unfortunately, and I say this as an ardent supporter of health care reform, the statistics cited don’t actually prove, or really even suggest, anything. The US also has more cars per person than the other countries listed, but I don’t think we will be arguing that it has anything to do with abortion rates. The point is this: statistics are just numbers until some study is able to link them to behavior, and in this case no such study exists. With all respect to the cardinal, “Isn’t it obvious?” doesn’t qualify as such a study. Any number of things, some more related than others, that differentiate the US from other countries could be used to suggest a link to the higher US rate of abortions.
Note that from a Catholic point of view, the other anecdotal evidence offered in the full article is just as troubling: Abortion rates are lower with health care, claims the young woman, because birth control is free.



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Klaire

posted March 17, 2010 at 9:03 am


I see no validity to this theory what so ever. Having done enough prolife work to get a pretty good feel for why women want abortions, I can assure you that if the government threw in a nanny through high school it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Most abortions are for done for convenience, and nothing is going to change that, short of change of heart. It’s the reason (although few if any ever talk about it), that abortion remains such a “hot topic.” For the most part in the US, legal abortion is back up birth control, ‘sexually freeing” many. That’s not to say that many pregnant women aren’t poor, scared, or have other issues, but that’s where the Catholic Church really shines. I personally don’t know of one case where a mother in need didn’t get what she needed via the Catholic Church.
One other issue, although even in the US late term abortions only make up a small percentage, it’s still legal, unlike the countries mentioned where most of the laws make abortion illegal between 12-22 weeks. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but none of those countries allow late term abortions.
Interesting to note is Germany, where abortions are only legal up to 3 months and even then require a waiting period.
I predict that if Obamacare passes, abortions will double. There are millions of dollars “built in” that bill for “Clinics.” The second factor is that O’care would make it very easy to do away with the Hyde Amendment, which currently does not allow tax dollars to be used for abortion. This will all end under O’Care.
In fact, I’m pretty convinced that abortion is “part of the plan” to keep costs down. I even expect that when the “ad ons” come, children will be rationed, and justified by “cost.” After all, the money will be needed to pay for student loans (I’m not kidding, it’s in the bill), of course, controlled by government



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Mike

posted March 17, 2010 at 10:42 am


I predict that if Obamacare passes, abortions will double.
i predict that you’re wrong. You always are.



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Grumpy Old Person

posted March 17, 2010 at 10:55 am


Dana MacKenzie,
“Of course, these numbers could have something to do with the fact that birth control is free and a huge part of the health care system, including surgical birth control.
Every rose has a thorn.”
HUH???
How on earth is free birth control in any way a “thorn”?
That’s just nutzoid, imo. The article, which also appeared here in FL in the St. Petersburg Times, is filled to the brim with logic and examples of how universal health care reduces abortions.
If you were referring to “surgical birth control” (a term I’ve never heard once in my 58 years, and presumably you are speaking only of abortions instead of vasectomies or hysterectomies or tubal ligation) as the “thorn”, please explain how any of these medical alternatives is a “thorn” if it is what the patients (both men and women, please notice) require – per the consultation(s) with their doctors in making their own personal reproductive choices.



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Grumpy Old Person

posted March 17, 2010 at 11:09 am


KDL,
“The US also has more cars per person than the other countries listed, but I don’t think we will be arguing that it has anything to do with abortion rates.”
That’s correct – it has nothing to do with abortion rates. So why did you bring in such an irrelevant statistic?
“With all respect to the cardinal, “Isn’t it obvious?” doesn’t qualify as such a study.”
While I disagree that any such “study” is necessary to validate (in your eyes, I guess) such a “link”, you seem to have missed the logic part of the quote:
“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed,” Hume explained, “she’s more likely to carry the baby to term.”
It is clear that in countries where health care is free and universal, this statement holds true.
“Abortion rates are lower with health care, claims the young woman, because birth control is free.”
I’m sorry you find this “troubling”, even if it is “from a Catholic point of view”, but then again, from a Catholic point of view, the availability – whether free or not – of birth control is always “troubling”. Newsflash: not all American women are Catholic, nor do all Catholic women agree with/follow the Church’s teachings on birth control.
I have to agree with Kenneth: “Abortion is their source of political and financial power.”
It very much IS about power and control (of other people’s medical decisions, so I find yours to be a very selective reading of the article.



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Your Name

posted March 17, 2010 at 11:22 am


Klaire,
You said this health care reform (sorry, I refuse to dignify you slur against the President) “would make it very easy to do away with the Hyde Amendment, which currently does not allow tax dollars to be used for abortion.”
This is blatantly false. The Hyde Amendment allows abortions in the cases orrape, incest and for the health/life of the mother.
The rest of your post is just as misinformed and just as misleading.
‘Congrats’ on your “prolife work”. The rest of us can easily decode that as anti-choice work, for that is exactly what it is. You wish to take away other people’s freedom to make their own reproductive health choices. You don’t like abortion? Don’t have one. Leave other people alone to decide for themselves what it is they need – for themselves.
I join Mike in predicting you are wrong on the doubling of abortions in America.



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Jdesilva

posted March 17, 2010 at 11:36 am


If statistics demonstrate that universal health care actually reduces abortions…great! But are you ok with paying for those reduced number of abortions? The conscience rights of those who do not support abortion must be respected and they should not be forced to be materially complicit in something they find morally objectionable.



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Margaret

posted March 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Another consideration might be that in countries with free health care abortion providers are not profit-making organisations who advertise and use various means to get women in to hand over money.



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wineinthewater

posted March 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm


Apples and Oranges.
Universal health care may reduce abortions, but what is on the table in the US is not universal health care like we see in countries with socialized health care. It is a red herring. With the reform as proposed now, health insurance would be easier to acquire, but that is far from free health care. People would still have to pay premiums and, more importantly, people would still have to pay deductibles.
Socialized health care might lower abortion rates – although I bet the causes are more complex than just the presence of socialized health care – but *this* health care reform is *not* socialized health care. The fact that socialized health care might reduce the abortion rate is no reason that pro-life proponents must therefore support this health care legislation. No amount of rhetorical sleight-of-hand can change that.
But beyond that, I don’t care if other countries’ abortion rates are lower. Even the US’s rate were 7.8 abortions per 1000 women aged 14-55, that is still almost 250,000 dead babies. That’s pretty expensive health care if you ask me. Molloch might give you a different answer though.



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NPR PRN

posted March 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm


Klaire seems to state that most abortions are done for selfish reasons. As a L&D nurse I can’t say I’ve seen that. The women who have had abortions are just as likely to be warm and caring to their new babies and older children as anyone. As someone who spends 12 hrs with these families in the most stressful, joyous, exhausting, overwhelming times in someone’s life, I can say they are just as likely as to be warm, loving and make good decisions for their lives and family.
Being judgmental is not helpful. Loving solutions may only be found if we are all willing to respect each other and listen.



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Klaire

posted March 17, 2010 at 4:48 pm


NPR Quote: The women who have had abortions are just as likely to be warm and caring to their new babies and older children as anyone
What?????
I think you make the point, happy to have kids ON THEIR TERMS.
One need only read the responses against me to know that I hit a nerve. Over 50% of abortions are a result of failed birth control, less than 1% are a result of rape, insest, or even lower (owing to c-sections and modern technology), “life” of the mother.
Only a small percentage are actually out of poverty, and with the Catholic help worldwide, NONE of those need to happen, as those women are always provided the help they need, even long after the birth.
As for “loving solutions” , NPR, let’s try the greatest love, protecting innocent life in the womb.



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ds0490

posted March 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm


“NPR, let’s try the greatest love, protecting innocent life in the womb. ”
Yes, because these priests need more boys to play with after mass.



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Jim Mazzarelli

posted March 18, 2010 at 4:07 am


I was reading this article with interest, but then blown away at the end:
“A young woman I knew in Britain added another explanation. “If you’re [sexually] active,” she said, “the way to avoid abortion is to avoid pregnancy. Most of us do that with an IUD or a diaphragm. It means going to the doctor. But that’s easy here, because anybody can go to the doctor free.”
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.”
Connecting the dots between the last 2 paragraphs: using artificial contraception, in this case, IUDs or diaphragms, also goes against Church teaching. So, providing women with access to these means through universal health care doesn’t necessarily solve the moral dilemma. Moreover, IUDs, the pill, and some of the other chemical contraceptives can result in ‘breakthrough ovulation’ and possible fertilization of the egg, i.e., conception. These contraceptives therefore are regarded as abortifacients. Read more at http://www.prolife.com/BIRTHCNT.html



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Jim Mazzarelli

posted March 18, 2010 at 4:36 am


To DS0490:
You parting allusion to the instances of child sex abuse in the Church is almost as depraved as the act itself. Do you take joy or satisfaction in other people’s suffering? Do you savor denigrating the whole of priesthood, men who freely give their lives to the Church to love and serve the Lord and ultimately to bring more to salvation? To be sure, the Church is not without its human failings, but then, that is the nature of man. As is said, all saints have a past, and all sinners have a future. Lent is a good time for deep reflection on our own failings and how we can become more like children of God.
On child sex abuse, becoming a priest doesn’t turn a person into a child sex abuser. This is an affliction in a person that may very well develop at an early stage in life. Perhaps abusers were victims of abuse themselves as children. Nonetheless, these revelations within the Church are an opportunity to take a wider look at the roots of child sex abuse and how to recognize and treat this affliction.



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Grumpy Old Person

posted March 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm


Klaire,
“I think you make the point, happy to have kids ON THEIR TERMS.”
You make our point for us. Why on earth should they be forced to have babies on YOUR terms?
Of course you’ve “hit a nerve”. You want to take other people’s health choices away from them. It isn’t any business of yours.



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For The Babies

posted April 18, 2010 at 9:12 am


To Klaire: Right on with all your comments!! As I’ve been active in pro-life for most of my life, including president of a chapter for years, the ones commenting against you have no idea the true emotional toll that abortion has on women, and we know what it does to the babies. Keep on keeping on, God bless you!!



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sonia

posted April 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm


Yes of course it can reduce it you just try once.



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