Making Birth Free

Making Birth Free February 3, 2023

A novel idea has surfaced in pro-life circles:  Making birth free.

Removing the cost of childbirth, proponents argue, would lower the abortion rate.  And more babies being born would would address the demographic problems we will soon face with our record low fertility rates.

The idea is developed in a paper from Americans United for Life, entitled Make Birth Free A Vision for Congress to Empower American Mothers, Families, and Communities.

The authors–Catherine Glenn Foster, President of Americans United for Life, and Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life–note that the medical costs of childbirth are around $19,000.  Even with private insurance, the out-of-pocket expense will be over $3,000.  When there are complications, the expense can be much more.  And sometimes insurance covers much less.  Some plans pay for contraceptives and even abortions, but not for childbirth.

They note that many women who get abortions cite financial issues as a reason:

Make Birth Free enables mothers to make the choice for life. Whether pro-life or prochoice, everyone should agree that no woman should feel coerced into choosing abortion as her only or most cost-effective option. According to several analyses, women rank concerns about financial preparedness as their top reason.  for choosing abortion. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute asserts that three-quarters of women seeking abortion listed financial affordability as a reason for obtaining abortion.

I suspect that the financial factors the women are referring to is not just the cost of childbirth but also the cost of raising a child.  But the authors say that the experience of other countries does show that eliminating childbirth costs does reduce abortion rates:

Natural experiments in countries like Italy, Spain, and Russia have shown that removing financial barriers to childbirth can reduce abortion rates. Improving healthcare accessibility by addressing problems of economic coercion may also help resolve well-known challenges in the United States of socioeconomic and racial disparities in the patient experience that can reinforce the perceived necessity of abortion. By making birth free, Americans can transcend the politics of abortion partisanship and enable mothers to make the choice for life.

Furthermore, the authors say that our nation urgently needs to address the problem of fewer babies being born:

Encouraging mothers and families to make the choice for life is an important investment in America’s future. Human beings are a nation’s most precious natural resource. Human beings are not mere consumers of scarce resources, but rather natural and equal contributors toward America’s common good. Human beings are creative producers of new and innovative technologies, medicines, and businesses. Men and women are more than mouths; they are minds, with limitless capacity for innovation. Yet the total fertility rate in the United States—a measure of the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime when present fertility rates and lifespans are held constant—has declined to record lows. If sustained, fewer Americans will be born each year than will die, leading to negative population growth. The economic and social impacts of fewer and fewer youth are massive.

The authors estimate that if the government would pay the medical expenses of childbirth, it would cost less than $100 billion per year.  That would be about what we have given to Ukraine in 2022.  We spend about two and a half times that on education.  And over 16 times that on healthcare in general.

I don’t think most abortions are chosen because the mother can’t afford to pay for childbirth.  But probably some are.  I think such a program would send a good message, establishing a pro-natalist policy that would make children a national priority.

And it should be unifying.  I like that pro-abortionists would feel constrained to vote for such a program, even though it is anti-abortion.  After all, progressives want all health care to be paid for by the government.  How could anyone advocate socialized medicine for everyone except expectant mothers?

Of course, this raises the problems of socialized medicine.  Such a policy could open the door to a government takeover of all health care:  Why stop at childbirth?  Why not provide medical care for the child permanently?  And let’s provide free abortions too, in a comprehensive plan to take care of “women’s health.”  And how about men’s health?

And I am aware that my previous post criticized government programs as solutions to our problems.  Wesley J. Smith raises similar concerns, while praising the basic concept and proposing some work-arounds.

What do you think about this?

Might it be an effective pro-life initiative to follow the end of Roe v. Wade?


Photo:  Mother Child Father by Young Family Home via Negative Space, CC0


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