Safe abortion is an integral part of women’s reproductive health care. Not funding abortion can put women’s lives and health at risk, especially poor women. It can also violate women’s constitutional rights to bodily autonomy, liberty, conscience, privacy, and equality (in countries that have such constitutional guarantees for women). Therefore, many countries fund abortion services via their nation’s health care insurance (such as Canada and the UK). Funding abortion serves to integrate abortion care into the healthcare system in general, and ensure the comprehensiveness of reproductive healthcare programs, which is essential.
However, in many countries (such as the United States and Austria), abortion may be separated from other health care and not funded by taxpayers. This forces women to pay out of pocket or rely on private insurance. Abortion funding is therefore crucial to ensure fairness and equity, without discrimination on the basis of income or gender. In the U.S., poor women often have to delay their abortions while they raise the necessary funds, which increases the medical risk. Between 18 and 35 percent of poor American women who are unable to access funding are forced to carry to term, in violation of their constitutional right to abortion. When abortions are not funded, it tends to ghettoize abortion care, as well as the women who need it and the healthcare professionals who deliver it. This can contribute to an increase in stigma, other restrictions on access, marginalization of abortion care over time, and anti-choice harassment and violence. All of this occurred in the U.S. after abortion was defunded for poor women by the 1973 Hyde Amendment.
Abortion must also be funded because it is not an elective procedure, any more than childbirth is. Pregnancy outcomes are inescapable – that is, a pregnant woman cannot simply cancel the outcome – once she is pregnant, she must decide to either give birth or have an abortion. Anti-choice activists often say that “pregnancy is not a disease” and therefore abortion should not be funded. But the same arguments can be made for childbirth, since there are no medical reasons for a woman to get pregnant and have a baby. More importantly, health is much more than the absence of disease – it’s about achieving a state of overall health and wellness. Women with unwanted pregnancies are not in a healthy place, so their abortion care should be funded.
Guttmacher Institute, At What Cost? Payment for Abortion Care by U.S. Women
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, Why Abortion Care Must Be Fully Funded