Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Drudge Report recently linked to a 1989 video clip of Rudy Giuliani expressing support for public funding of abortions for low income women, news that quickly found its way onto the political blogs and set off a storm of speculation about who sent the video to Drudge and how the revelation will affect Giuliani's presidential ambitions.
So, what about public funding for abortions? Heather Boonstra writes in The Heart of the Matter: Public Funding of Abortion for Poor Women in the United States (Guttmacher Policy Review, Winter 2007):
 marks the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion in all but the most extreme circumstances. Named after longtime Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), who retired in 2006, the measure primarily affects Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that finances the provision of health services to eligible Americans deemed too poor to afford care on their own. More than seven million women of reproductive age12% of all U.S. women in that age-groupare enrolled in the Medicaid program.
Medicaid enrollees are the poorest of poor Americans. For a woman to qualify, she must have an income below the very low eligibility ceiling set by her state. State income eligibility ceilings range as low as 18% of the federal poverty level in Arkansas and average 65% of poverty. That average translates to an annual income of $11,160, or roughly $930 per month for a family of three....
Researchers have studied the impact of funding restrictions on women's reproductive decisions and have found that despite the relatively high cost of the procedure, most poor women in need of an abortion manage to obtain onea testament to women's determination not to bear a child they feel unprepared to care for. But their doing so often comes at a cost, as many poor women have to postpone their abortion. For those who are affected, the delay is substantial: Poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to obtain an abortion....
Moreover, other research shows that poor women who are able to raise the money needed for an abortion often do so at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. Studies indicate that many such women are forced to divert money meant for rent, utility bills, food or clothing for themselves and their children.
One reason why delays in obtaining an abortion are important is because the cost and the risk of a procedure increases with gestational age. In 2001, the average charge for an abortion in 2001 was $370 at 10 weeks' gestation, but jumped to $650 at 14 weeks and $1,042 at 20 weeks. Thus, the longer it takes for poor women to obtain an abortion, the harder it is for them to afford it. In addition, the risk of complications increases exponentially at higher gestations, so many poor women become trapped in a vicious cycle in which their difficulties are exacerbated and their health risks increased.
Are the funding restrictions imposed by the Hyde Amendment constitutional? In 1977, the Supreme Court in Maher v. Roe ruled that it is not unconstitutional for the government to pay for childbirth-related medical expenses for poor women, while denying funding for abortion. In 1980, in Harris v. McRae, the Court held that government funding is not required even for medically necessary abortions.
View the Giuliani video on YouTube. See also: Tuesday's Washington Post; The Fix (Chris Cillizza); Media Matters (where you can view a video clip in which Sean Hannity and Dick Morris assert (admittedly without any proof) that "the Clintons" were behind the posting of the Giuliani video on YouTube).