Sarah Palin gave a paid speech on abortion and teen pregnancy at a Houston church yesterday. Reporters were only allowed to hear the first few minutes of the talk, but according to several sources, Palin told the crowd abortion is an "essential" issue in the midterm election, and that President Obama supports a "culture of death." His health-care reform legislation represents "the biggest advance of the abortion industry in America," Palin said.
None of the mainstream news organizations reporting this event fact-checked Palin's claim that the health bill expands access to abortion. It does not. Just to review recent history, President Obama and the pro-choice majority of the Democratic Party largely capitulated to the party's anti-abortion rights, Blue Dog faction in order to pass the bill. The result is that under health reform, newly-insured women will find it very difficult to access insurance coverage of abortion. Within the new health insurance exchanges, in which consumers will, come 2014, be able to purchase insurance with the help of federal subsidies, no federal dollars at all may be used to cover abortion. I'll let the Guttmacher Institute explain the mind-bogglingly twisted details:
…individuals, at least in theory, may purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage so long as the abortion coverage itself is paid for with their own money. … In practice, however, the complex, politicized arrangements the legislation necessitates militate heavily against the likelihood that many such plans will be purchased—or even offered. Consumers purchasing exchange plans that include abortion coverage would have to make two separate premium payments—one to cover abortion services and one to cover everything else. Insurance companies would have to jump through numerous, unprecedented hoops to estimate the cost of abortion coverage and ensure that the abortion payments never mix with other funds; they also are likely to face extensive public scrutiny and protest around their action. All told, according to an analysis by George Washington University’s Sara Rosenbaum, “the more logical response” for private insurers marketing plans within the exchanges—and eventually in the broader market as well—“would be not to sell products that cover abortion services.”
So let's be clear: the expansion of health insurance coverage under the reform bill will come with essentially no expansion at all in access to abortion, because of the bureaucratic roadblocks purposefully thrown up by Congress.
Since about 87 percent of employer-provided health plans already cover abortion, it is self-employed women, younger women, and poorer women who will suffer. Middle-class and affluent women will continue to either use their superior insurance coverage to pay for abortions, or will pay out-of-pocket.
One-third of American women have abortions in their lifetimes. Sixty percent of women accessing abortion are already mothers. The average abortion costs about $400.