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Abortions and Fiscal Irresponsibility

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"If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." --Gloria Steinem, The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.

At first blush one might assume that the raft of anti-abortion activity from the national to the state level has to do solely with moral opposition to the procedure and the willingness of many to permit their wish to exercise control over a woman's body to supersede their dislike of government involvement in the private sector. Recent events show that in some quarters, at least, fiscal concerns are of equal, if not greater, importance.

South Dakota offers an example of the public sector intruding into the private sector of women's bodies for moral reasons. On March 22, 2011, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a law that establishes the longest waiting period in the country for women seeking to have abortions. It requires them to wait for three days after meeting with a doctor before permitting the abortion to take place. According to the governor, the three days will give women, for whom he apparently believes the decision to have an abortion was made on the sperm of the moment, the opportunity to consider the decision for an additional period before proceeding. (Harsh though this legislation is, it didn't hold a candle to South Dakota House Bill 1171 that emerged (and was promptly shelved) from what is euphemistically described as the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee on a 9 to 3 vote. It attempted to redefine justifiable homicide to include the killing of someone performing abortions, such as a doctor. Inartfully drafted (or perhaps changed on the floor), it would not have had that effect but, nonetheless, that is how it was perceived by critics and supporters alike. South Dakota was not alone in introducing government into the lives of women in 2011.

In Virginia a new law was passed that requires that doctors' offices that perform abortions be regulated the same as hospitals rather than as doctors' officers, thus introducing a level of regulation to abortion clinics that may make many no longer financially viable. As part of the budget deal arrived at in mid-April, the District of Columbia is prohibited from using its own funds to pay for abortions, another example of a Republican majority that dislikes the excessive control over people's lives it believes is exercised by the federal government, doing just that. For some opponents of abortion, abortion is a fiscal as well as a moral issue. That was apparent in Texas as well as in comments made by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

When a state budget was being discussed (appropriately on Aprils Fools day) in the Texas legislature (that for Texas residents, thankfully, meets only ever two years) State Representative Randy Weber, a supporter of reducing the amount of money available for providing contraception for low income families, justified his position saying the use of contraception led to higher abortion rates. He said a study for the period 2000-2001 "shows that the highest abortion rate is among women actively using contraception and . . . among the poor." When challenged by one of his colleagues who asked him if he thought contraception didn't work he quite properly responded, not being the fool some took him for, that it didn't work for "those that get pregnant."

In an earlier discussion in committee, a representative from the Legislative Budget Board explained to legislators that contraception could save Texas $80 million during the next two years because "fewer babies would be born under the state's Medicaid program." In response Rep. Jody Laubenberg said, "We're going to save on the non-babies that are being born? We're going to prevent baby births? This has got to be government math... Basing it on the speculation that you are going to save money by non-babies, by non-Medicaid baby births." Of course Texas is not alone in basing its attack on family planning on budgetary issues. It is joined by former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Santorum, now a U.S. President wannabe, was entertaining, and entertaining questions on a radio talk show in New Hampshire. When the subject of abortion came up he expounded on his economic theories saying cash shortfalls for social security are attributable to the country's "abortion culture." In responding to a caller he said, "Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion." Mr. Santorum laments their absence since were they here they would be working, earning money and paying taxes and thus the social security trust fund would have more money than it now has. Perhaps Mr. Santorum has, being apparently witless, unwittingly come up with a solution to the problem of underfunded social security. If he and the Texans are correct, states like South Dakota should require that each woman who wants to have an abortion be given, in addition to counseling, a fiscal impact statement describing the effect on the economy if her unborn child is not permitted to be born and become a productive taxpaying member of society. Such a statement, if not the counseling, would certainly reduce the number of abortions taking place in the United States.

Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com