Study in New England Journal of Medicine Links Expanded Health Care Access and Reduction in Abortion Rates

Access to abortion, particularly through any public health program, has been among the nation's most divisive issues, but regardless of your position you may find this report from the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine interesting, as they identify reductions in abortions following legislative steps to expand health care access. 

Under current law, the use of federal funds, such as Medicaid and other US Health and Human Services programs, for abortion is only permitted in instances of sexual assault, incest or the life of the mother is at risk. These restrictions are often referred to as the “Hyde Amendment,” first offered by Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde and approved by Congress since 1976.  Where the line is drawn is the problem – do US tax breaks for insurance companies trigger the provision or only Medicaid program spending?  Where is the logical consistency there?

Political posturing aside, it’s not clear that access to abortions increases the use of the procedure.  Based on Massachusetts data (comparing data from 2006, when Massachusetts adopted expended health care reform, to the last year of data in 2008), the Journal report cites, despite rising population and rising birth rates, the number of abortions declined including abortions among teens, from fall 2006 to autumn 2008, a drop of 1.5% for adults and 7.4% for teens.   

Based on Massachusetts' actino to expand coverage, universal health care coverage has been associated with reductions in abortions.   Here’s the full story in the Journal, based on the research of Patrick Whelan, MD PhD: