May 21, 2019
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Reducing hurdles to abortion makes economic sense

Ted S. Warren | AP
Ted S. Warren | AP
Hillary Namba, left, of Seattle, holds a wire coat hanger and a sign that reads "We Won't Go Back," as she takes part in a protest in Seattle.

“How can I pay for a medical procedure that my insurance will not cover?”

That is the question people seeking abortions ask in our state as MaineCare and many private insurers deny coverage for abortion care, meaning that people in need of safe, legal reproductive health care have to cover costs out of pocket. When seeking abortion care, a person may have to navigate several barriers, including their own physical and mental health concerns, judgments from a partner or family members, or challenges in simply getting care in their community. For many Mainers, figuring out how to pay for abortion care quickly becomes an obstacle.

Discriminating against poor people or people with certain types of insurance through coverage bans is an underhanded way politicians stifle access to abortion. Such bans disproportionately affect people with lower incomes, people of color and young people.

LD 820, “An Act to Prohibit Discrimination in Public and Private Insurance Coverage for Pregnant Women in Maine” would rectify this gap by requiring MaineCare state funds and private insurance to cover abortion if they provide prenatal care.

A 2018 report from the Federal Reserve Board, which studied 2017 U.S. households, stated, “4 in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.” This becomes more troubling when considering the lack of abortion coverage by insurers as cost varies by state, with higher costs in states with heavier restrictions. The price rises with other incurred expenses such as travel, missing work, and child care ( 59 percent of abortion patients in the U.S. have children).

At Mabel Wadsworth Center, an independently funded, feminist, reproductive and sexual health care clinic in Bangor, the cost of abortion care is $525 for both medication and in-clinic abortion (up to 14 weeks). Clients have reported having to sell personal possessions or borrow money from their families and friends in order to cover the cost of their care.

At a national level, the Fed report tells us about how people pay for unaffordable, unexpected expenses, but the most distressing statistic was this: 27 percent of respondents reported they “skipped medical treatment due to cost.”

With procedures as time-sensitive as abortion, patient cost presents an issue as the longer you wait, the higher the cost of your care becomes. The cost rises significantly after the first trimester, which has been highlighted because of New York’s law allowing for abortion care after 24 weeks gestation if the pregnant person’s health is in danger or with absence of fetal viability. People seeking later abortion care face more difficulty with finding a provider, travel, and securing insurance coverage or funding.

The Turnaway Study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health reports when people in need cannot have abortions, they face “four times greater odds of being below the Federal Poverty Level.” People who are already economically disadvantaged are hit with further financial hardship when they cannot get the necessary reproductive health care that they seek. Instead of pushing people deeper into poverty, we should empower them with the resources they need to make the decisions that are best for them and their families. No one should be denied health care because of how much money they make.

Abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure that is directly linked to economic security. This is why we need to support policies that increase access for people who are the hardest hit by insurance coverage bans on abortion, like LD 820. When it comes to important decisions in life, such as whether to have a child, it is vital that a person is able to consider all options available to them, however much they earn or however they are insured.

Nik Sparlin of Milford is the development and communications assistant at Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor.


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