Saturday, March 13, 2010

Universal Health Care Reduces Abortions, Mr. Stupak

This story should have been reported on about 20 years ago, so we wouldn't have had to go through endless, pointless debates about reducing the incidence of abortion. After reading the following, every anti-abortion conservative should jump on board the universal health care bandwagon:

Washington Post: One prominent argument is illogical. The contention that opponents of abortion should oppose the current proposals to expand coverage simply doesn't make sense. Increasing health-care coverage is one of the most powerful tools for reducing the number of abortions -- a fact proved by years of experience in other industrialized nations. All the other advanced, free-market democracies provide health-care coverage for everybody. And all of them have lower rates of abortion than does the United States.

There's a direct connection between greater health coverage and lower abortion rates. To oppose expanded coverage in the name of restricting abortion gets things exactly backward. At least, that's the lesson from every other rich democracy.

The latest United Nations comparative statistics, available at,
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. In Britain ... 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.

When I studied health-care systems overseas in research for a book, I asked health ministers, doctors, economists and others in all the rich countries why their nations decided to provide health care for everybody. The answers were medical (universal care saves lives), economic (universal care is cheaper), political (the voters like
it), religious (it's what Christ commanded) and moral (it's the right thing to
do). And in every country, people told me that universal health-care coverage is
desirable because it reduces the rate of abortion.

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