The following op-ed was published on May 7, 2014, in the Star Tribune.
By Diane Paffel and Paul Stark
Taxpayers fund one-third of abortions in Minnesota, according to figures released in early April by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This is cause for serious concern and discussion.
Consider, first, some history. Beginning in 1978, Minnesota law prohibited public funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the mother. Then, in June 1994, Hennepin County District Judge William Posten decided that the state Constitution requires Medicaid coverage of abortion for low-income women. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the ruling in its 1995 Doe vs. Gomez decision. Not even the U.S. Supreme Court — in Roe vs. Wade or subsequent abortion cases — has gone that far.
The state has since paid $20.7 million for more than 65,000 abortions. In 2012 (the latest year for which data are available), taxpayers reimbursed abortion providers $822,403 for 3,571 abortions. That’s 33.4 percent of the total of 10,701. Most of these abortions were purely elective.
One need not support legal protection for unborn children to oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to facilitate their destruction. A poll released in March by CNN/ORC International found that 56 percent of Americans oppose tax-funded abortion; only 39 percent support it. There is, indeed, common ground in the abortion debate. This is part of it.
Elective abortion is not a public good deserving of public support. It is not health care — it violently attacks the health and ends the life of a developing human being. "Abortion," the U.S. Supreme Court explained in a 1980 case (Harris vs. McRae) upholding limits on public funding, "is inherently different from other medical procedures." Why are Minnesotans required to pay for this?
A substantial body of research has established that government funding increases the incidence of abortion. A 2009 literature review by the Guttmacher Institute — a vigorous defender of unlimited abortion — concluded that "approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable."
Public funding means more abortions. Limits on public funding mean fewer abortions. And fewer abortions is something almost everyone wants.
Minnesota's current policy allows abortion providers to market "free" abortions to economically vulnerable women. Planned Parenthood, which performs more abortions than any other provider, increased its state-funded abortion claims by 64 percent over the last six years. In 2012, the organization collected $255,000 from the state for performing 1,139 abortions on low-income women, a 30 percent revenue increase over the previous year.
But abortion doesn't solve anyone's problems. Pregnant women facing difficult circumstances deserve our compassion, care and support. We can put tax dollars to better use.
The Legislature passed bipartisan legislation in 2011 to stop public funding of abortion; the bill was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. This year the House of Representatives passed a similar measure on April 3, but it was defeated in the Senate on April 8.
So government support for the abortion industry will continue — for now. But this is no justice to the human beings in utero who are dismembered and killed. Nor to the taxpayers who are made complicit despite broad and bipartisan disapproval. Nor to the women who are offered a quick fix that doesn't really fix anything.
There is a better way.
Diane Paffel is vice president and Paul Stark is communications associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.