Anti-Choice Groups Misuse Guttmacher Data To Make A Faulty Case

Among the many arguments being made in the debate over health care
reform is the claim that because very few women use private insurance
coverage to pay for abortion services, loss of this coverage would have
minimal impact. Those making this argument cite a Guttmacher Institute
statistic showing that 13% of all abortions in 2001 were directly
billed to private insurance companies.

However, that statistic alone misrepresents the situation on three counts:

  • Our study included all women who obtained abortions in
    2001, including women on Medicaid and those who are uninsured. If one
    looked only at privately insured women, the percentage of procedures
    billed directly to insurance companies would be substantially higher
    than 13%.
  • Perhaps even more importantly, the 13% statistic
    does not include women who pay for an abortion up front and then seek
    reimbursement from their insurance provider. This is common when a
    medical provider does not participate in a patient’s insurance plan, as
    is often the case with small, specialized providers, including abortion
  • Lastly, some of the women whom our study
    identified as paying out of pocket likely had insurance coverage for
    abortion care, but may not have known they had it or chose not to use
    it for reasons of confidentiality. Given the stigma that still
    surrounds abortion, many women might not have wanted their insurer or
    employer—or their spouse or parent who may be the primary
    policyholder—to learn that they had obtained an abortion. That
    antiabortion activists who have worked for decades to perpetuate that
    stigma are now turning around and using it to argue why women should
    not be able to purchase insurance coverage for abortion is deeply


The best available evidence—from
two studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and the Kaiser Family
Foundation—suggests that most Americans with employer-based insurance
currently have coverage for abortion. Further, as outlined above,
direct billing does not equate to either extent of coverage or even use
of coverage. Guttmacher’s 13% statistic, therefore, should not be cited
as evidence that insurance coverage for abortion is not widespread or
to suggest that restricting such coverage would have an impact on only
a small minority of women.

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  • paul-bradford

    Among the many arguments being made in the debate over health care reform is the claim that because very few women use private insurance coverage to pay for abortion services, loss of this coverage would have minimal impact.


    I don’t know how many people are making this argument, but it doesn’t strike at the core of the debate.  Pro-Lifers aren’t going to be able to protect the very young by making abortion unaffordable to women.  The woman who can’t scare up $400 for an abortion is going to have a hard time raising a child once s/he’s born.


    The reason so many of us support Stupak is because of conscience issues.  Pro-Lifers don’t want to be in the position of paying for abortions we believe are unethical and unjust.    Trying to stop abortion by stopping coverage is both inhumane and ineffective; but it’s not what Stupak is about.


    I only wish pacifists had as much political clout as Pro-Lifers.  Then we could make the argument that we shouldn’t have to pay for wars we don’t believe in.  Abortion costs represent a teensy percentage of our national health care bill, and we’re fighting over that measly amount of money.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn off the spigot that feeds the military?  Now we’re talking some big bucks!



    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • amy-higer

    In response to the above post, I would say that pacifists would have a lot more clout if the Catholic Church was as interested and committed to stopping war as they are in controlling women’s reproductive choices. For that matter, I don’t see the church engaged nearly as much in policy debates over the death penalty as they are in the health care debate. I appreciate the consistency in Mr. Bradford’s moral position, but he misses an important element in the politics of this issue if he doesn’t see the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy on this issue. And, speaking of hypocrisy, the statistic I would like to know is this: how many so-called “pro-life” women have had abortions when they’ve needed them? How many “pro-life” men have supported women they love who need abortions? We all like to believe we are moral, but what is more immoral than forcing a woman against her will to sustain an unwanted pregnancy and go through the painful experience of childbirth?

    By the way, medically necessary, second trimester abortions cost more on the order of $10,000, not $400.