It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The majority of the American people have repeatedly expressed their opinion that taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortions. The passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976 was supposed to prevent that from happening.
Yet today the truth is that the American taxpayer is funding more abortions than ever. Carly Fiorina, Republican candidate for president, repeatedly stated this fact in a contentious interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press. Todd, once thought to be a fair-minded journalist, showed his true liberal colors as he relentlessly pushed back against Fiorina’s claims with Democratic talking points.
Who is telling the truth? Chris Conover, writing for Forbes, has analyzed this question in detail. For those who relish those details, I recommend you read Conover’s full article. For the rest of you I will offer a brief summary.
Conover estimates taxpayers subsidize 24% of all abortion costs in the United States. Federal taxpayers pay about 6.6% of these costs and 17.4% are paid by state taxpayers. If these figures are applied to real numbers of abortions, this is equivalent to taxpayers funding 250,000 abortions a year; about 70,000 with federal taxes and 180,000 with state taxes.
How Abortions Are Financed
According to a Guttmacher Institute survey in 2011, abortions are financed in a variety of ways:
- 69% are paid entirely out-of-pocket
- 15.6% are paid by Medicaid
- 7.3% are paid by a non-Medicaid source (employer-sponsored or non-group)
- 8.6% didn’t know if they used third party coverage
Taxpayer Direct Funding of Abortions
Medicaid is obviously a taxpayer-funded source of financing, but it is more complicated than to just say Medicaid funds abortions. The Hyde Amendment restricts taxpayer funding of abortion – but doesn’t prevent it.
The current version of the Hyde Amendment, adopted in 1997, allows federal Medicaid funding of abortions in cases of rape, incest, and endangerment of the life of the mother. However, states may choose to use their own funds for Medicaid-funded abortions. In 2010, federal Medicaid paid for 331 Medicaid abortions and states financed 113,000 abortions.
Medicare also permits abortions for cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the life of the mother. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan also permits abortions for the same reasons. Military Personnel and Dependants also may receive abortions for these exceptions at military health facilities or through private facilities paid by TRICARE. Military facilities, however, cannot perform abortions even if they are paid for out of private funds, except with these exceptions.
Indian Health Services (HIS), and Women in Federal Prisons may have abortions, paid with federal tax dollars, only in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the life of the mother. Only about 2 abortions per year as performed by HIS since most of their facilities are unequipped to perform abortions.
Women in federal prisons are permitted to pay for their own abortions at private facilities, but only if they are escorted by a federal employee. Although there is no cost to the prison inmate, there is also a “conscience” provision allowing federal workers to refuse to serve as an escort. (Makes you wonder why the state of Kentucky can’t provide a “conscience” provision for those state employees who don’t want to grant marriage licenses to homosexuals.)
Net Impact of Federal Abortion Restrictions
According to the Guttmacher Institute survey of self-reported reasons for abortions, only 1% of abortions are due to rape, 0.5% are due to incest; and only 2.8% represent “life-endangering” situations. So Conover believes it is fair to say that the vast majority of abortions – more than 95% – are not covered by the Hyde Amendment. Therefore, the direct funding of abortions by federal taxpayers is limited.
Taxpayer Indirect Funding of Abortions
In the Guttmacher survey we learned that nearly 16% of abortions are financed through third-party coverage other than Medicaid ( and perhaps 8.6% more for those who didn’t know). Of those with private insurance, 7 of 8 get it from their employers who enjoy a tax exclusion for health benefits (the value of those benefits is not taxed like it would be if it were wages).
Since most of these private plans cover abortions, the cost of those abortions is being subsidized by taxpayers. Conover estimates 100,000 abortions are indirectly financed in this fashion. Assuming a 305 federal subsidy per abortion, this implies that federal taxpayers finance about 4% of abortion costs while state taxpayers pay for less than 1%.
Taxpayers also indirectly fund abortions through the non-profit tax exemption. The Guttmacher Institute survey tells us that 63% of all abortions were performed in “abortion clinics” (defined as clinics in which more than half of patient visits are for abortions). Another 31% are performed in “other clinics”, that spend more than half their time in other services.
Planned Parenthood claims only 3% of its services are for abortion clients, a claim hotly disputed by Conover and other critics. Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions in 2013 by their own admission. That represents approximately 31% of all abortions performed in America, a figure consistent with the Guttmacher figures for abortions performed in “other clinics.” Hospitals account for another 4% of abortions.
Since non-profit companies like Planned Parenthood and most hospitals pay no income taxes, the taxpayers are implicitly financing abortions performed in these institutions. Conover states taxpayers implicitly finance 2.35% of every abortion performed by Planned Parenthood or non-profit hospitals.
(Next post: How ObamaCare also funds abortions.)