According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), more babies will be born under the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Because the bill cuts Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, women will allegedly lose access to contraception and fewer babies will be aborted. Cue the liberal outrage.
“The provision to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood would have disastrous consequences and result in women losing access to care, especially services that help women prevent unintended pregnancies,” Dana Singiser, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for public policy and governmental relations, told The Washington Post.
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) March 13, 2017
The CBO report estimated that AHCA’s one-year ban on federal funds going to sizable abortion providers (which only applies to Planned Parenthood) would save the federal government $178 million in 2017 and $234 million between 2017 and 2026. But this policy would also do something else. “To the extent that there would be reductions in access to care under the legislation, they would affect services that help women avert pregnancies.”
“By CBO’s estimates, in the one-year period in which federal funds for Planned Parenthood would be prohibited under the legislation, the number of births in the Medicaid program would increase by several thousand, increasing direct spending for Medicaid by $21 million in 2017 and by $77 million over the 2017-2026 period,” the report stated.
As The Wall Street Journal‘s Daniel Nasaw put it, “‘several thousand’ additional births covered by Medicaid would occur due to reduced access to Planned Parenthood preventive services.”
But the CBO report wasn’t just considering contraception — it was considering abortion, too. And the number of births allowed to happen because of the cuts in Planned Parenthood services would actually be more than “several thousand.” The CBO report noted that “the costs of about 45 percent of all births are paid for by the Medicaid program,” which means that when it projected that “the number of births in the Medicaid program would increase by several thousand,” it was also predicting that the number of overall births would increase by twice that.
Why this impact? Because CBO estimated that “the people most likely experience reduced access to care would probably reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations,” and that “about 15 percent of these people would lose access to care.” It would indeed be a tragedy that these people would lose access to care — but there are other organizations providing women’s health care besides Planned Parenthood.
House Speaker Paul Ryan noted that for every Planned Parenthood location, there are 20 community health centers which provide similar services sans-abortion. When The Washington Post‘s Michelle Ye Hee Lee “fact-checked” Ryan’s statement, she was forced to admit that he was generally correct. She still gave him two “Pinnocchios,” however, because not all the community health centers to which Ryan was referring are forced to serve low-income patients, and others do not offer as much contraception as Planned Parenthood.
If the CBO projection also approached the issue like this “fact-check,” it might have underestimated how low-income women would be taken care of. After all, if federal funds went to these community health centers instead of to Planned Parenthood, they likely would provide more contraceptive services. The biggest hit would be to abortion providers.
In reporting this projection, Vox’s Sarah Kliff warned that defunding Planned Parenthood would have “severe impact,” leaving “patients little options to seek similar care elsewhere.”
Similarly, Vox’s Emily Crockett warned that “if this bill passes, there’s no guarantee that women will have any good options for private insurance coverage of abortion — a procedure that, out of pocket, can cost from $500, for an earlier abortion, to tens of thousands of dollars, for a later one.”
This warning helps to illustrate a point — many people are conflating abortion with health care, an argument which would rub many Americans the wrong way.
While Planned Parenthood supporters lamented the effects of the AHCA, pro-life Americans mocked their fear of increased births. “Oh, no. Not…..births!!” tweeted Kimberly Ross, a senior contributing editor at RedState.
Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, responded to the same breathless tweet warning that “thousands of births would result” from the AHCA. “Your apparent horror at the thought of babies being born in low-income areas is telling, and not in a good way,” Davis wrote.
C.C. Pecknold, a professor at the Catholic University of America, drew attention to The Washington Post‘s headline: “Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Lead to Thousands More Births, CBO Says.” Pecknold noted, “What’s incredible about this WaPo headline is that it tacitly admits that @ppact kills people.”
— C.C. Pecknold (@ccpecknold) March 14, 2017
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), summed it up nicely, “Planned Parenthood is upset over more live births. It’s absurd.”
— Jay Sekulow (@JaySekulow) March 14, 2017
It is defensible for CBO to take into account the increased births from defunding Planned Parenthood, estimating the increased cost to Medicaid. But the way in which Planned Parenthood defenders responded — seemingly breathlessly afraid of an increase in babies born alive — did not look good.