Abortion Amendment Not a Big Deal, by the Numbers

Only 13% of abortions are billed to private insurers
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2009 8:46 AM CST
Bart Stupak, D-Mich, asks questions of the witnesses during a hearing in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Newser) – The Stupak-Pitts amendment clamping down on abortion funding by insurers isn’t the game changer it's been made out to be: It would affect only a tiny minority of women. Though 50% of privately insured women have plans that include abortion coverage, many, perhaps most, don't use it because of privacy concerns, notes Stephanie Simon in the Wall Street Journal. Just 13% of abortions are billed to private insurance plans, according to a 2001 study.

That suggests that fewer than 160,000 women a year would be affected if insurers dropped abortion coverage. “This is very much a political issue, and a lot less about the substance of how many women will be affected,” said one pro-choice economist. With 90% of abortions taking place in the first trimester, when they cost less than $500, the biggest effect would be on late-term abortions, which often come after the fetus has been diagnosed with a disorder. These rare procedures can cost up to $5,000, and would no longer be covered, even for fatal fetal disorders.