Letter to the Editor

Institute gives response to letter

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To the Editor:

Sharon Carey (letter, Aug. 2) falsely attributes an entirely bogus "fact" -- that health care reform would increase abortions in the United States by 33 percent -- to the Guttmacher Institute.

Although it is difficult to know for certain, it appears that Ms. Carey is confused both about a recent Guttmacher study on the impact of the Hyde amendment and about its applicability (or lack thereof) to the health care reform debate.

Our study found that one in four poor women who would have an abortion if it were paid for under Medicaid instead carries her pregnancy to term.

However, because only a very small subset of all women are on Medicaid and because several of the most populous states already use their own funds to subsidize Medicaid abortions, we also estimate that repealing the Hyde amendment would increase the total number of abortions in the country by only 2.5 percent -- not the 33 percent that Ms. Carey and some other antiabortion activists apparently choose to believe.

Ms. Carey then inappropriately extrapolates this false 33 percent statistic to the very different issue of health care reform. (Like it or not, repealing the Hyde amendment is simply not on the congressional agenda).

Widespread misinformation notwithstanding, none of the health care reform proposals pending in Congress would mandate abortion coverage. Rather, they seek to maintain the legal status quo -- under which insurance companies decide whether abortion will be covered in the plans they offer.

Moreover, because most insurance plans already cover abortions, and because most currently uninsured women would, under health care reform, either be enrolled in similar plans or in an expanded Medicaid program (which is prohibited from covering abortion), there is no reason to believe that health care reform would have any substantial impact on the total number of abortions in the country.

Rather than obfuscate the debate with false statistics, Ms. Carey and others who oppose abortion rights should put their resources into common sense efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy -- namely, comprehensive sex education and other access to contraception -- and thereby reduce the need for abortion.


Cory L. Richards,

Executive Vice President,

Vice President for Public Policy, Guttmacher Institute, Washington, D.C.