A recent article in Cosmopolitan by a pro-abortion activist Destiny Lopez would have their readers, who are mostly young women, believe that a 40-year-old federal funding provision called the Hyde Amendment, which prevents Medicaid from funding abortions, “targets poor women and denies needed health care.”
This is a popular leftist trope peddled by the likes of Hillary Clinton, whom Lopez praises for taking a stand on this as part of her “women’s health agenda.” In one of the presidential candidate’s speeches to Planned Parenthood earlier this year, she asserted that, “Any right that requires you to take measures to access it is no right at all,” adding that the Hyde Amendment is “making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”
Let’s start by clarifying the terms. By “right” Clinton and Lopez mean “health care.” By “health care,” they mean abortion. By abortion, they mean supposedly correcting a “mistake” or an “unwanted pregnancy.”
Even the push poll Lopez cites from her own organization (which admits to oversampling voters aged 18 to 29 by almost 200 percent) that claims widespread support for federal abortion funding frames the debate as a matter of denying health care to poor women, and defining abortion as “pregnancy care.” Other polling with more neutral language, however, indicates large majorities of voters, including large majorities of black and Hispanic voters, oppose taxpayer funding for abortions.
Further, insisting that ending a pregnancy counts as care for that pregnancy is beyond logic. That’s my first major objection to Lopez and Clinton’s assumptions. The second: it’s wrong to force other people to pay for the consequences of your decisions.
Ending Lives and Healthy Body Functions Isn’t Health Care
Lopez and Clinton state as a matter of fact that killing a baby before it’s born just because it’s “unwanted” is health care. This is a brazen rejection of reality. In no way can abortion be categorically considered “health care.” In those rare circumstances where the life of the mother is threatened, yes, you can argue this constitutes care for the mother’s health. In the vast majority of cases, however, as my Federalist colleagues A.D.P. Efferson and Amy Otto have pointed out, framing all abortion as “health care” is an inaccurate attempt to normalize abortion by suggesting it’s routine health care like a pap smear or a mammogram.
Abortion ends an innocent human life. In almost all cases it inflicts direct harm on that life for the sake of convenience, not the mother’s health. Harm cannot simultaneously be considered care, and women need to be aware of this contradiction and the tragedy that arises from it. Lopez does young women a great disservice by disingenuously papering over this contradiction with terms like “health care” and “pregnancy care.”
She also ignores the plain biological fact that pregnancy is a healthy and common result of sex. Sex makes babies. It’s when sex doesn’t make babies that we know something is wrong with someone’s body, not the opposite. Pregnancy is a completely normal and natural condition for a childbearing-age woman who is sexually active. Legitimate medical care protects and preserves that natural function rather than treating it as a disease—because it’s not a disease. It’s an indication of health. What is not healthy is cutting up and evacuating a gestating child.
Lopez goes on to say, “Nor is it acceptable that the Hyde Amendment forces 1 in 4 poor women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.” That number may seem high, but Medicaid is a massive program that doles out approximately three-quarters of all public funding for family planning services and funds almost half of all births in the United States. Given the program’s scale, it’s not surprising that, according to expert testimony during a September congressional hearing on the Hyde Amendment, approximately 2 million Americans, or “1 in 9 babies born to mothers on Medicaid,” were not aborted as a result of the provision.
That’s a lot of “mistakes” that didn’t end in death because of the Hyde Amendment. Sensible people would call preventing death very excellent health care. Yet Lopez insists that working to eliminate the Hyde Amendment constitutes “fighting for women’s health and rights,” rather than the opposite.
I Shouldn’t Have to Pay For Your Poor Choices
Secondly, and more importantly as it relates directly to preserving the Hyde Amendment: it’s not my responsibility to pay for your poor life choices. Set the millions of babies saved aside; I would support the Hyde Amendment even if I weren’t stridently pro-life.
In case you’re at all confused, let’s start from the beginning. The fact is that in almost all cases, sex is a choice. Sex makes babies. If you don’t want babies, you have two choices: don’t have sex, or use contraception. You don’t need the cute graphic in your OB-GYN’s office to tell you that abstinence is 100 percent reliable. And guess what? It doesn’t cost anything.
More than 40 percent of births in 2014 were to unwed mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Abstinence is a wise choice for unwed women, who tend to be in less financially secure situations than married women. Remember that Medicaid covers almost half of all U.S. births. It’s probably not a coincidence that these numbers are within eight percentage points of each other.
If you’re married or just can’t bring your bodily urges into submission, it’s been well-established that contraception is not that expensive. It’s only about $25 to $50 a month on average, or about the price of a cheaper cell phone plan. It’s a lot less expensive than an abortion, and a lot less expensive than a baby. If you want to have sex but not have babies, contraception should be a given. Not using it, or not planning for the fact that a baby can result from sex even if you’re using contraception, are individual choices that the individuals who make them should be responsible for.
But activists like Lopez would have young women believe taxpayers should pay for their indiscretions because, after all, that’s their view of health care. To them, health care is something nobody needs to take individual responsibility for any more, even though one’s personal health is quite often a result of one’s own health decisions and lifestyle. Especially since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, health care is increasingly seen as a right detached from all personal responsibility.
Guess those lawmakers never heard of moral hazard, which shows that when people do not have to deal with the consequences of their own decisions they make more bad ones. That’s not good for them, or for everyone who has to pay for that (in this case literal) death spiral.
Stop Telling Women They’re Passive Victims
Abortion advocates like Lopez maintain another strange contradiction: “Ending Hyde is…about making sure a woman who’s made the profound decision to end her pregnancy gets the care she needs” (emphasis added). Lopez admits abortion is a choice. It’s elective, and it’s not trivial, it’s profound. Yet we are to see pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid as victims who are “targeted” by the Hyde Amendment and being denied access to “health care,” not as agents facing the results of their own poor life choices now intent on being agents in the death of innocent human life.
So to Lopez, abortion is simultaneously an elective procedure and “needed health care.” Women seeking abortions are simultaneously victims and, according to the congressional testimony of United for Reproductive and Gender Equity’s Kierra Johnson, making a “personal decision about whether to end a pregnancy.”
Most of the young women who read Cosmo and similar progressive outlets probably don’t recognize just how convoluted the Left’s frame for the abortion funding debate is. Whether they see abortion as routine health care or as a “profound choice” (or both), they clearly receive this overarching message: It’s taxpayers’ duty to pay for your mistakes.