Anti-Choice Groups Misuse Guttmacher Data To Make A Faulty Case

Adam Sonfield

Anti-choicers are misrepresenting data from a Guttmacher study to make their case for banning abortion care in health reform. Here's what the data really say about coverage for abortion care.

Among the many arguments being made in the debate over health care
reform is the claim that because very few women use private insurance
coverage to pay for abortion services, loss of this coverage would have
minimal impact. Those making this argument cite a Guttmacher Institute
statistic showing that 13% of all abortions in 2001 were directly
billed to private insurance companies.

However, that statistic alone misrepresents the situation on three counts:

  • Our study included all women who obtained abortions in
    2001, including women on Medicaid and those who are uninsured. If one
    looked only at privately insured women, the percentage of procedures
    billed directly to insurance companies would be substantially higher
    than 13%.
  • Perhaps even more importantly, the 13% statistic
    does not include women who pay for an abortion up front and then seek
    reimbursement from their insurance provider. This is common when a
    medical provider does not participate in a patient’s insurance plan, as
    is often the case with small, specialized providers, including abortion
    providers.
  • Lastly, some of the women whom our study
    identified as paying out of pocket likely had insurance coverage for
    abortion care, but may not have known they had it or chose not to use
    it for reasons of confidentiality. Given the stigma that still
    surrounds abortion, many women might not have wanted their insurer or
    employer—or their spouse or parent who may be the primary
    policyholder—to learn that they had obtained an abortion. That
    antiabortion activists who have worked for decades to perpetuate that
    stigma are now turning around and using it to argue why women should
    not be able to purchase insurance coverage for abortion is deeply
    cynical.

 

The best available evidence—from
two studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and the Kaiser Family
Foundation—suggests that most Americans with employer-based insurance
currently have coverage for abortion. Further, as outlined above,
direct billing does not equate to either extent of coverage or even use
of coverage. Guttmacher’s 13% statistic, therefore, should not be cited
as evidence that insurance coverage for abortion is not widespread or
to suggest that restricting such coverage would have an impact on only
a small minority of women.

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