I have been a keen observer of US Politics for quite sometime now. It always reassures me to see that Indian democracy is not the only one which suffers from ‘Policy Paralysis’, thanks to the unending bickering of 2 major national parties. However, ever since Donald Trump got elected the media coverage of what the President is going to do has captured people’s attention. Apart from Trade, Taxes & Obama Care, one major domestic issue on his radar seems to be overturning Roe v. Wade.
Abortion Rights has been one the most divisive issues in US politics. The Pro-life and Pro-Choice camp have been at each other’s throats since the judgment came in 1973. For now, the Democrats and Women’s right groups are worried that POTUS is going to appoint a “pro-life” Supreme Court Judge to overturn the case. Once that happens, individual states will get the rights to enact Abortion Laws, which means that women in quite a few states might loose their reproductive rights. State laws have already contributed to closing a number of abortion clinics thanks to the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case which allowed states to create restrictions as long as they don’t place a substantial obstacle in the path of seeking an abortion. John Oliver previously covered this in detail.
The objective of this article is not to go over the merits or demerits of the law or talk about Women’s rights vs the rights of the state. On the other hand, I have tried to look into this from strictly a “POLICY OBJECTIVE” point of view. Being from a foreign country, who is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, I am giving this a shot.
For many decades now the Right of center has been fighting the courts, Planned Parenthood and Democrats as they feel that abortions are akin to killing basing it on their religious views. The way they have gone about it is using “Dis-incentivizing” policy techniques. This included making abortions difficult or even illegal and putting legal, social, financial & medical hurdles in front of Doctors, Clinics and pregnant women. So, has this strategy worked?
Well, it is very difficult to say. In the past decade (mostly during the Obama Administration), the number of abortions have dropped by 20%.
But at the same time, the number of teenage pregnancies (Age 15-19) have also dropped dramatically. The Atlantic looked into these figures, but came up with multiple reasons: abortion restrictions, Obamacare & access to birth control along with the decreasing teenage pregnancies.
The Pro-Lifers should actually be looking at this as a major success. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case as the data is getting lost in partisan & religious politics.
However, for Pro-Lifers, messing up with Roe v. Wade, Obamacare & Planned Parenthood might backfire. If the Republicans actually overturn Roe v. Wade (which for 4 decades was only a political rhetoric), a future Democrat Administration will definitely try to overturn it again. And this time, the other side will make it more difficult for the Republicans to tinker with it. A future Democrat administration will definitely also try to weaken Planned Parenthood v. Casey case if they see the Republicans today getting too extreme under pressure from the Alt-Right & Pro-Life groups.
Getting in to the extremes and forcing laws which many Women see as trampling on their basic rights will negatively impact Republicans in the next election cycle. If the support for #WomensMarch is anything to go by, this a dangerous move.
So, what should Pro-Lifers? – Try Incentivizing policies than Dis-incentivizing
Objective of the Republican Party: To reduce the number of abortions in the US
Details: Convince more women to not undergo an abortions at any point during the pregnancy
Exceptions: Cases of sexual assault or Danger to the mother’s life
Catch: Create a system that can be accepted by Democrats & Women’s right groups
What forces expectant mothers to decide against having her child? Simple – Economics!!
Teenage mothers & many single women simply find it difficult to sustain financially. Breaking the costs down:
1) Cost of delivery – As Vox news recently found out : Hospital cost $16k , Insurance negotiated price was $8k and they paid $841. This is for a non-complicated birth and for women with insurance.
What happens to the 11% un-insured women? (Declined from 17% in 2013)
What happens when Obamacare is replaced with something which reduces health insurance coverage? Or if the premiums go up?
2) If the mother is a single woman or working – Day care is absolutely essential. This costs $11,666 per year ($972 a month) on an average.
Who pays for all this?
3) For teenage pregnancies – they might have to choose between keeping a child and going to school/college and getting an education to get the right job. 74% of women who have abortions say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities. Only a few colleges and hardly any school provide these facilities.
The only way the Pro-Lifers can incentivize women to not have an abortion is by reducing the financial burden.
In the replacement for Obamacare, add compulsory low premium insurance for expectant mothers. The premium payments can also be deferred for a few years down the line giving the new mothers a financial breather.
The Pro-Lifers can also push for legislations to give subsidies to mothers having children below the age of 10 so that they could afford better day care centres. This will not only help the existing mothers but all also the day care industry as a whole, by increasing business and improving standards.
To reduce the abortions by teenagers in schools and college, make it compulsory for schools and colleges to tie-up with a day care centre and provide free child support to the female students.
If you want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies – just make contraception more affordable and available. This argument actually helps the “Family / Pro-Life” Groups who wants to reduce the number of single mothers. Reducing teenage pregnancies by better access to contraception is a no-brainer.
One last thing. Rather than dismantling Planned Parenthood, why not use the well-established institution with a nationwide network to actually implement the “Incentivizing Policy”.
Something to think about.
Full disclosure: I am not an American. Personally, I feel that the State should not interfere in such issues.