In a 2011 editorial in The Washington Post, pro-choicer Ezra Klein defended Planned Parenthood and argued against defunding the organization. He used this as one of his main arguments:
The services Planned Parenthood provides save the federal government a lot of money. It’s somewhat cold to put it in these terms, but taxpayers end up bearing a lot of the expense for unintended pregnancies among people without the means to care for their children.
The argument that abortion saves taxpayers money by eliminating poor children has been around since the beginning of the abortion debate in America. Prior to Roe v. Wade, one of the arguments used in favor of abortion legalization was how it was cheaper to abort the poor than to support them. When abortion supporters were trying to legalize abortion in North Carolina, one pro-abortion Congressman had this to say during hearings:
Unwanted children are a large drain on tax money. In contrast, an abortion earlier than the 12th week of pregnancy costs only about $25. (1)
In 1979, the ACLU, which has always been pro-abortion, sent out a fundraising letter that said in part:
Financing abortions for the poor is far less expensive than the cost of childbirth and welfare support for unwanted children. So the government is actually paying out your tax dollars to force poor women to become mothers. (2)
This letter was intended to stir up fear in middle and upper-class people that their money would be taken away from them. The ACLU was appealing to their personal greed, or at least their fears of not being able to support their own families because of high taxes. Although the ACLU has a long history of claiming to support individual rights, the right to be born has never been one of them. Nor, it seems, has the right for the poor to have children if there is any chance those children might at some point need government assistance.
The argument that it is better to kill children than spend money on them has also been used more recently. Eve Gartner, a pro-abortion lawyer, fought to force Medicaid to pay for abortions for poor women. However, her concern didn’t seem to be for the well-being of the actual women themselves, but rather the burden of their children on taxpayers. She said:
My impression is that people don’t really understand the fact that they will save more money by funding all Medicaid abortions than just paying for life-threatening cases. Twenty-five percent of those people who might have Medicaid-funded abortions have children instead…and then people are paying for pre-natal care, childbirth and probably public assistance for the child.(3)
Many other pro-choicers have made similar arguments. I will share just two more.
Pro-Choice activist Austin Cline gave a nod to the “abort children rather than pay for them” argument when he said:
The lack of funding for abortions can easily put them out of the reach of poor women who are likely seeking abortions because they cannot afford to care for more children. Ultimately, the state pays more to help these families. (4)
Abortionist Ashutosh Virmani brought race into the equation when he taunted pro-lifers by saying, “Let’s see you adopt those ugly black babies and get them off the taxpayer’s money.”
The argument that abortion saves taxpayers money appeals to the worst in human nature. It says that life can be balanced against cost, and that eliminating babies is a good thing if it saves people money. It puts the desire for financial well-being ahead of the lives of preborn children. It appeals to both the fears of the wealthy and the disdain and stigma many hold toward welfare recipients.
The sad truth is that many people put their own material desires ahead of the lives of poor women and their children. In a country that stereotypes and looks down on people who need government assistance, this is an argument that resonates for the selfish and coldhearted.
By devaluing the lives of preborn children in the wombs of poor mothers and reducing them to dollars and cents, pro-choicers dehumanize the most vulnerable people in our society – the preborn and the poor.
- Johanna Choen Choice & Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005) 190
- Brief for Appellees at 185, Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980); and Norman Dorsen, ACLU Campaign for Choice fund-raising letter to “Dear Friend,” n.d. [received by the writer on 29 Sept. 1979]. Quoted in Mary Meehan Human Life Review, Spring 2001, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p49, 25p
- Phil Greenberg (Life is a Poor Investment July 31, 1994) “To Life: A Collection of Editorials & Columns on Abortion, Life, and Choice” (Little Rock, Arkansas: The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 1999) 73
- Austin Cline “Religious Groups Aim to Eliminate Women’s Rights” in Lucinda Almond The Abortion Controversy (New York: Greenhaven Press, 2007) 55