The Economics of Taxpayer Funded Abortion

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If you like the spectacle of irresistible forces crashing into immovable objects, you must love the game of chicken being played by pro and anti-abortion forces as each hold the trillion dollar healthcare bill hostage. While a compromise might yet be possible, it's hard to imagine how Pelosi and Reid are going to unify their fractious colleagues. Republicans, of course, are happy to let their opponents immolate themselves on the altar of doctrinal purity, especially if internecine warfare derails the runaway healthcare train.

Abortion is a difficult subject, especially if your goal is to get people with opposing viewpoints to stop shouting long enough to hear each other. By way of full disclosure, I am one of those who believe that abortion is a tragedy, not a crime. I see no clause in the U.S. Constitution that empowers Congress to either ban the lamentable practice or force others to pay for it. This is, in fact, the status quo under the law.

But the status quo is never enough for culture warriors, especially if they believe they have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance their cause. With the calendar ticking down toward a voter backlash sure to end one-party rule, the left wing of the Democratic Party would be well advised to seek alternate means for achieving their long-sought goal of free abortion on demand. They might, for example, try engaging in a little empathy complemented by the uncharacteristic act of practicing what they preach.

Here's the empathy part, a thought exercise designed to give strident abortion rights activists a brief experience of the visceral horror that right-to-lifers must live with every day. Imagine waking up one morning to learn that the Supreme Court ruled that parents could legally practice infanticide up until a child's first birthday. Imagine clinics springing up across the country at which parents could drop off infants with Spina Bifida, Down's Syndrome, or maybe just kids they couldn't afford. At these clinics doctors would give unwanted children painless lethal injections, no questions asked. Parents might have to brave a gauntlet of picketing protesters, including some willing to adopt their unwanted babies on the spot, but imagine that the law protected a parent's right to dispose of their burden as they see fit.

Of course infanticide is not the same as abortion. Unless you believe that humans are invested with immortal souls from the moment of conception and that the Creator of Heaven and Earth has instructed that thou shalt not kill.

Hard as this may be to accept, many of our fellow citizens fervently hold these beliefs. Like it or not, we have to share this country with them. Living in peace with respect for those who hold different views is generally considered more desirable than engaging in never-ending gang warfare.

Isn't it enough that the law has come down on the side of those who wish to make abortion safe and legal? What purpose does it serve to force those who equate abortion with murder to pay for it? What's so horrible about leaving well enough alone? How would you feel if the government forced you to pay for euthanizing unwanted handicapped infants?

You say that your lofty goal is to guarantee "access" to abortion for those who can't afford it. OK, let's do the math. The average abortion costs about $400. Something like 1.2 million abortions are performed in the US every year. Suppose a third of these unwanted pregnancies are to women so destitute that $400 would swing their decision. Paying for every one of them to have abortions would bring the bill to maybe $160 million a year. This sound like a lot, but if a majority of Americans really believe that the poor should receive free abortions, the bill comes to about $1 per year per advocate.

So here's the practice-what-you-preach part. If you truly believe you are your sister's keeper, how about reaching into your own pocket to dispose of their babies? What's stopping you from raising the money voluntarily? Surely, there's room in your busy life for one more walkathon. Consider the hundreds of millions of dollars you spend on advocacy, political campaigns, and lobbying. How about diverting a little of that cash to pay for those abortions you believe are a basic human right?

Paying for what you believe in rather than paying to influence politicians to force others to pay for what you believe in may sound like a radical idea, but would it really be the death of liberalism? What better example could preachers of tolerance and diversity set than by declaring a truce over this divisive issue? What would happen to the tone of civil discourse if advocates of choice showed a little respect for their fellow citizens by choosing to put their own money where their mouths are?

Continued infighting stands a good chance of killing this budget-busting healthcare bill. In the end, such a death would be an act of poetic justice. What better testament could there be to the wisdom of our founder's in devising multiple checks and balances to protect us from a government run amok?

Bill Frezza is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a Boston-based venture capitalist. You can find all of his columns, TV, and radio interviews here.  If you would like to have his weekly columns delivered to you by e-mail, click here or follow him on Twitter @BillFrezza.

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