The Cost of Banning Abortion Funding


April 05, 1993|By CARL T. ROWAN

Washington. -- If you wonder why President Clinton is risking another emotional war in Congress by trying to lift the 16-year ban on federal funding of abortions for poor women, let me say that the president knows some things that you need to know.

The first is that the amendment banning the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortions for needy women has cost this nation a fortune in tax dollars, human anguish and social damage.

Rep. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., author of the amendment banning abortion funding for impoverished women, has charged that Mr. Clinton wants to ''coerce tax dollars'' from millions of Americans ''whose consciences forbid them from becoming accessories in perhaps a million more abortions per year.''

Neither Mr. Hyde nor his almost hysterical ally, Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., ever talk about what it has cost taxpayers and the nation as a whole to coerce the poorest, most vulnerable teen-agers and women to carry pregnancies to term.

The Center for Population Options here has reported that in 1989 another teen-ager became a mother every minute. That is partly because the Hyde Amendment denied an opportunity to abort to girls aged 13, 14, 15, even when they were victims of rape or incest.

The center says that by the time a child born to a teen-age mother in 1990 reaches age 20, you and I will pay $18,133 to support that family. If an unwanted pregnancy occurs in a family already on welfare or other public assistance, we taxpayers then cough up $54,399 per child over 20 years. Just for teen-agers alone, the cost for babies born in 1990 is estimated to run to more than $7 billion over 20 years.

Don't forget the colossal cost of our supporting unwanted babies born to females past teen-age status -- all to accommodate the extreme view of people such as Messrs. Hyde and Smith that any abortion is ''murder.''

The dollar cost of refusing to let Medicaid fund abortions is trifling compared with the costs of hiring policemen, and building jails and prisons, to cope with the rage of youngsters who know they were unwanted at birth and are now not only unloved, but despised by the legislators who appropriate funds for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance for children born into a hostile world of poverty, racism and class hatreds.

The temptation is to rejoice that Messrs. Hyde and Smith and other vociferous anti-abortionists are dumb enough to argue the issue in terms of burdens on taxpayers. They can never justify a congressional decree that poor women must bear babies on the grounds that aborting them wrecks the U.S. treasury.

This was folly in a society where half of all pregnancies are unintended, and half of those are aborted. The result is that rich ''high-IQ'' white women are aborting (there were 1.6 million abortions in the U.S. in 1988, the last year for which figures are available, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute) and having fewer children, while long-ridiculed black and brown women are producing the majority populations of the next century.

One has to wonder where the excesses of religious and racial passion over procreation will take this society in the next generation.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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