Boston, MA - The abortion rate in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decreased in the two years following the implementation of the state's universal health care system, according to a policy brief issued by Catholic Democrats. Catholic Democrats also makes the case that, "No one questions whether Medicaid is in compliance with the Hyde Amendment, yet federal dollars help support a network of programs nationally - administered by the Department of Health and Human Services - that provides abortion services. Medicaid is a component of both the legal and market status quo." The policy brief is available at the Catholic Democrats Web site.
The data regarding the abortion rate in Massachusetts comes from an article written by Catholic Democrats president Dr. Patrick Whelan and released this week by the New England Journal of Medicine. Data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health demonstrated that for each of the two years following implementation of the Commonwealth Care component of the state's universal coverage law, the number of abortions fell. "In 2007, the first year of Commonwealth Care, the number of abortions fell to 24,128, and in 2008, it fell to 23,883 - a decline of 1.5% from the 2006 level. The number of abortions among teenagers in 2008 fell to 3726, a 7.4% decline from 2006," said the report.
The policy brief also states that in an analysis by Catholic Democrats "...the data suggests that only 26% of abortions are paid for by health insurance providers, and the availability of health insurance coverage for abortion services is underutilized, i.e. women who have abortions and health insurance that covers the procedure do not use their insurance to pay for it. Consequently, the assertions that greater availability of health insurance providing abortion coverage will lead to 'opening the flood gates' is, at least, overstated."
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"The evidence from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts echoes the experience of universal health care in other developed countries: namely, it is associated with a decline in the abortion rate," said Dr. Whelan. "It makes sense that women would feel more confident in bringing their pregnancy to fruition if they know that they and their children will be assured of receiving quality medical care."
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on final passage of the health care reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate last December. Some politically conservative bishops, speaking in the name of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), have insisted that only the language inserted by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) in the House version of the bill can maintain the status quo set by the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the federal funding of abortions. The Senate version of the bill similarly continues to prohibit federal funding of abortions, but will allow women to separately purchase a rider covering abortion if they buy insurance in the health exchanges created by the Senate bill. Despite wide criticism by health care experts, USCCB representatives and Rep. Stupak have insisted that the indirect defraying of administrative costs is the same as the direct funding of abortions.
Nonetheless, other Catholic groups and commentators have taken a different view. A coalition of 59,000 nuns released a letter yesterday calling for the approval of the measure. The Catholic Health Association, representing 1,200 Catholic hospitals, has also endorsed the Obama approach. The National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal Magazine have editorially endorsed the Senate bill. Several prominent pro-life Catholic Democratic representatives have announced that they are satisfied with the abortion protections incorporated in the Senate bill.
"If the facts were such that the critical assertions being made about abortion were true, then Catholics would have a truly prudential decision to make, but they are not. The Catholic decision here is to provide health care to 31 million more people," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. "It is clear that the Senate version of the bill will maintain the status quo when it comes to the direct funding of abortion. Given the evidence we have from the state of Massachusetts and from other countries, it is reasonable to conclude that not only will this legislation not open the floodgates to increased abortions, it will likely result in fewer abortions across the country."