9 States Where Awful GOP Policies Will Actually Drive Up the Abortion Rate
This week, eight Indiana Planned Parenthood clinics are closing their doors, in response to Republican-led state legislation cutting off their Medicaid funding, which means the clients at these clinics and all Medicaid clients in the state who go to Planned Parenthood will now be cut off from their contraception provider. There’s likely to be a rise in the abortion rate in the state as women lose access to the means to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Not only are anti-abortion state Republicans and Gov. Mitch Daniel not upset about that, they’re the ones who are fighting for it to happen.
If Daniels and his Republican buddies are so anti-abortion, why did they go to great lengths to make sure their state would have more abortions?
Republicans generally claim to abhor abortion, but ever since the party swept the House and many state legislatures in the 2010 elections, they've really dedicated themselves to policies that couldn’t be better designed to raise the abortion rate. Obviously, the option of abortion should be available for women who need or want to have an abortion. But all Americans should be wary of policies that increase the abortion rate, because the abortion rate goes up when women’s life circumstances go sour; either because they’ve lost access to basic health care such as contraception or because their economic circumstances have worsened.
But beyond that, Republicans who claim to hate abortion for itself should be embracing policies that secure women’s access to health care, child care and financial stability--policies that actually reduce the abortion rate. Instead, they seem committed to policies that will do nothing but drive more women to seek abortion.
With that in mind, here are eight more states -- in addition to Indiana -- where Republicans seem to be working hard to make sure that more women find themselves in need of an abortion, by cutting access to contraception, pre-natal care, and aid for low-income women to help raise their families.
1) Florida. Even though the economy is tanking and more women than ever need services, Florida has made cuts to funding for Healthy Start, a prenatal care program that allows women without health insurance to bring healthy babies to term. Local clinics that provide health care that women need for early infant care have seen their funding cut, as have family planning services such as contraception subsidies for low-income women.
Now, Florida is a state where more women will be getting pregnant but fewer women will be able to afford the medical care needed to continue with their pregnancies, putting them in a situation where abortion seems like a much better option. Three quarters of women having abortions already say they can't afford a child, and Florida has made having a baby even further out of a woman’s reach.
2) Kansas. Despite his claims to be anti-abortion, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback made huge strides toward raising the abortion rate in his state by cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. The strategy differs from Indiana’s, in that Kansas is attacking mainly Title X funding, which covers reproductive health services for women who don’t qualify for Medicaid but still can’t afford these services on their own. This means many women will see the monthly cost of birth control pills double or even more.
The state is trying to dodge the challenge from the federal government by focusing on birth control subsidies instead of Medicaid reimbursements, but even with these limits, the abortion rate in the state is probably going to go up. The Guttmacher Institute already found that women are struggling to pay for contraception in this economy, since birth control pills often cost upward of $50 a month for women paying out of pocket. If diminished, subsidies causes a spike in price for women in Kansas, many will simply skip or stop using contraception altogether. The result will be more pregnancies and therefore more abortions.
3) North Carolina. North Carolina took a look at what Kansas and Indiana were doing and decided to take part, becoming the third state to pass a law barring Planned Parenthood from accessing funds that lower the cost of birth control for low-income women. The Democratic governor vetoed the bill, but increasing the rate of unwanted pregnancies was such a priority for the legislature that they overrode her veto. But North Carolina isn’t exactly welcoming to an increase in childbirth to go along with the increase in unplanned pregnancy. The state is cutting funding for early education and about $1 billion from schools. North Carolina Republicans have no problems with upping the rate of pregnancy by depriving women of birth control, but they just don't want to invest in the kids that will result.
4) Wisconsin. Wisconsin is angling to be the vanguard in this new Republican experiment of supporting a rise in abortions while claiming to oppose abortion. Everything women need to avoid abortion, from affordable contraception to the ability to feed their families, is under prolonged assault by Republicans desperate to pack in retrograde policies before they’re recalled out of power. Under Gov. Scott Walker, Republicans are moving to cut family planning, cut health services, throw poor people out of their homes, and of course, destabilize the unions that offer protection to Wisconsin families, putting rising numbers of women in a position where they can’t prevent unwanted pregnancies and they also can't take care of the children they do have.
On top of it all, the Republicans are trying to require parental consent for minors to get contraception, even though many teenagers will turn to pull-and-pray rather than ask their parents for birth control. In case their desire to keep women from contraception wasn’t obvious enough, Wisconsin legislators jumped in line to defund Planned Parenthood. Without contraception subsidies, poor women will struggle and often fail to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but without the traditional economic protections, they won’t be able to have their babies when they do get pregnant. When faced with this stark choice, many women will turn to abortion.
5) New Jersey. Under the leadership of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey’s family planning centers have suffered major funding cuts. Christie slashed family planning funding without even pretending that abortion had any bearing on the decision. Instead he justified the decision as fiscal conservatism, even though every dollar spent on family planning saves the government $4. $7.5 million has been cut from family planning services, and there’s talk of cutting another $4.6 million from general community health services. As in Wisconsin, New Jersey is also attacking benefits, including health benefits, for state employees.
As the Guttmacher Institute demonstrated, the abortion rate is going up with poor women, no doubt in response to poor economic times. New Jersey’s policies will exacerbate these economic woes while raising the unwanted pregnancy rate. Despite Christie’s stellar record at creating the environment for an increased abortion rate, he was invited to speak at a so-called pro-life rally.
6) Texas. The state of Texas hasn’t received as much attention for their family planning cuts as Indiana and North Carolina, because of the daunting complexity of its anti-contraception legislation. The bill requires reproductive health funding to go first to state, local and private clinics over Planned Parenthood. The hope is that funds will run out before Planned Parenthood has access to any. To make it worse, the bill has a caveat that if Planned Parenthood challenges the law, all the funding for family planning in the program will be cut. In much of Texas, especially rural Texas, Planned Parenthood is the only access many women have to contraception. A million and a half women in Texas rely on subsidies for contraception, which means the number of likely abortions from loss of contraception services will be especially high in the state.
7) Minnesota. Minnesota’s legislature passed deep cuts to Planned Parenthood, which uses the vast majority of the state’s Title X funding. The result is the closure of six clinics that mainly serve more rural areas where options for low-cost birth control are otherwise nonexistent. In theory, women could drive many hours to other cities to get birth control, but with gas at $4 a gallon, the drive alone could wipe out the affordability for many.
In case this doesn’t do enough to separate women from their contraception, Minnesota lawmakers are also considering a bill that would require teenagers to obtain parental consent for contraception. Liberal approaches to contraception have lowered the Minnesota teen pregnancy rate for years, but expect it to go up if this bill passes, and with a spike in teen pregnancy, there is usually a spike in abortions.
8) Tennessee. Fights to kill off family planning funding in Tennessee have been numerous and diverse, occurring on the local and state level. Chattanooga-Hamilton County officials attempted to block funding directly to their clinics, which ended in a confused failure. Despite this, the fight went statewide, with a redirect of the funding that goes to Planned Parenthood toward other clinics in the area. The rub? Those clinics can’t actually handle the amount of traffic that goes through Planned Parenthood on a regular basis. In Tennessee, the money may be there, but women will still be denied access to contraception. The Tennessee unemployment rate lingers at around 10 percent, and the poverty rate is at 17.2 percent, putting a lot of women in a position where they can’t afford contraception, but when they get pregnant, they really can’t afford to have a baby.
Republicans, who claim to find fetal life precious and abortion horrendous, also favor the very policies that drive increasing numbers of women to seek abortions. Presumably, Republicans don’t have a problem with this because they also seek to make abortion harder to get, and figure that it will all even out in the end. But in reality--as many abortion providers will attest--women will go to great lengths to get abortions, even in cases where they were negligent with contraception. The emergency nature of an unwanted pregnancy motivates in a way that potential pregnancy simply cannot, and women will beg, borrow and steal to get abortions if the chance they took skimping on contraception didn’t pay off.
The only workable way to prevent abortions is to make sure women have the means to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but this method is the one that Republicans are increasingly loathe to support.