Americans Broadly Support Abortion Coverage in Health Reform

by Cara on July 9, 2009

in abortion, anti-choice extremism, assholes, class and economics, Democrats, misogyny, patriarchy, politics, reproductive justice, Republicans, social conservatives, women’s health

You my have heard — or you may not, as it seems to be getting little mainstream media coverage — that health care reform is in trouble. With Republicans and blue-dog Democrats sensing that some sort of of government coverage is likely to be successfully created this time around, they’re shifting tactics somewhat from attempting to defeat mounting legislative efforts to attempting to gut them. And a big area where they’re focusing that gutting is reproductive health care:

Imagine our dismay to see the proposed amendments submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee this week by Republican Senators Michael Enzi, Orin Hatch and Tom Coburn:

  • Coverage for abortion would be banned;
  • Health providers and insurers would be protected against “discrimination” for refusing to provide health care requested by their patients including abortions, emergency contraception, aid-in-dying (such as in Oregon, Washington and Montana, where this is legal) or really just about any health service they find objectionable;
  • Federally-qualified health centers could not provide abortions and still get government grants;
  • Any independent medical board appointed to determine the benefits that would be included in national health reform coverage would have to include “professional ethicists…with specialty in rights of the life of the unborn.”

The really interesting thing is that while traditional wisdom suggests there is rather broad support for a ban on government subsidization of abortions, new research from the National Women’s Law Center suggests that it’s not actually true — not by a long shot:

  • Voters overwhelmingly support the broad outlines of reform and requiring coverage of women’s reproductive health services. Seven-in-ten (70%) favor a proposal that establishes a National Health Insurance Exchange with a public plan option. If the reform were adopted, voters overwhelmingly support requiring health plans to cover women’s reproductive health services (71% favor-21% oppose).
  • Absent coverage for women’s reproductive health services, majorities oppose reform. If reform eliminated current insurance coverage of reproductive health services such as birth control or abortion, nearly two-thirds (60%) would oppose the plan and nearly half (47%) would oppose it strongly.
  • Supporting coverage of comprehensive reproductive health services would benefit Members of Congress. A plurality (45%) would feel more favorably toward their Representative if they voted to cover reproductive services, while 24% would feel less favorably, and 32% said it would make no difference.
  • Voters would feel much less favorably about their Representative if they voted to cover services like Viagra for men, but excluded reproductive services for women. Voters overwhelmingly reported that they would feel less favorably toward their Member of Congress if they voted for reproductive services for men and not for women (71%), while only 9% would feel more favorably toward their Representative.


Frightening though it may be that there’s even a 9% response of people who would feel more favorably towards a representative who supports reproductive services for men but not for women, those are some pretty convincing numbers. Of course, you may think — as admittedly, I originally did — that that the language is potentially misleading. “Reproductive services” does not actually mean “abortion” — there are a whole lot of important reproductive services that are not abortion-related — and many respondents might not understand that when they express support for “reproductive services” in general, they are expressing support for a range of services that actually does include abortion.

True though this may be, it’s (perhaps surprisingly) not particularly relevant here:

Even in the face of opposition arguments, majorities support requiring coverage of abortions under reform. After hearing strong arguments both for and against covering abortion under reform, two-thirds (66%) support coverage, agreeing that health care, not politics, should drive coverage decisions. A majority of voters (72%) reported that they would feel angry if Congress mandated by law that abortion would not be covered under a national health care plan.

So in other words, even when abortion is explicitly included in the discussion, the numbers stay virtually static.

This is important stuff to know, and to spread the word about, for several reasons.  First of all, it would be an enormous tragedy to finally have health care reform passed, only for access to vital services to be kept out of the deal — leaving some who will need to switch to a government plan for cost reasons with less coverage than they had before.  Secondly, because the numbers directly and substantially challenge a huge and pervasive myth that is promoted by the media in the name of “presenting both sides of the story.”

And lastly, because we can’t expect elected officials to follow the poll numbers if they don’t even know about them.  The pressure that they usually end up feeling comes from anti-choicers because, well, unfortunatley anti-choicers are really good at that sort of thing.  This time around, they absolutely need to hear it from us, too.  So while you’re going around spreading the word, make sure to make your Senators among the first recipients of the message.

Bookmark and Share

Previous post:

Next post: