There is an idea promoted in groups that oppose abortion (and usually premarital sex and the more effective forms of contraception) that abortion is big business and that abortion providers’ goal in life is to exploit women in order to rake in the big bucks. Here is a stellar example of such propaganda (watch–it’s worth it):
The purpose of this post is not to refute every ridiculous claim in this video, but here is a pie graph that shows the division of Planned Parenthood’s services, and here is an article that discusses the faulty condom issue.
So let’s discuss the “business” of abortion.
The Cost of Abortion
First, overall healthcare costs have risen far beyond the pace of inflation:
But according to the National Abortion Federation, the cost of an abortion has gone down:
[C]ontrary to the distorted picture of the “abortion industry” as a tremendously profitable business designed to take advantage of women, in reality abortion providers have maintained lower than average fees for their services compared with physicians in other specialties. Correcting for inflation, legal abortions in 1991 cost only about half what they cost in the early 1970s.
Here are the price ranges for abortions at my city’s Planned Parenthood clinic:
- abortion pill (medication abortion) – $375-425
- in-clinic abortion
- up to 12 weeks – $375
- 12-13 weeks – $400
- 13-14.0 weeks – $425
These fees are in the low to mid range for these services (you can see some other fee schedules here, here, here and here). In any case, Planned Parenthood certainly isn’t charging exorbitant fees for abortion services. In contrast to other surgeries and medical procedures, abortion is not where the money is.
Time is Money
When it comes to abortion, generally the earlier the procedure is performed, the simpler and less expensive it is. While an early abortion (medical or surgical–this link gives an excellent explanation of the differences and the risk-benefit analysis) costs around $400, a later abortion can cost thousands of dollars. But anti-abortion crusaders generally do everything within their power to delay access to abortion. Examples are waiting periods after the initial medical visit and restrictions or bans on medical abortions (which are only done before 9 weeks of pregnancy). After using tactics to prevent access to early-term abortions, anti-abortion activists then point out how expensive, dangerous, and gruesome it is to get later-term abortions.
Anti abortion activists also advocate for procedures that add to the cost of an abortion and thus add to the profits of the physician or clinic. The most common of these is ultrasound, which usually costs from $100-$1000.
Perhaps the most bizarre tactic of anti-abortion activists is to insist that abortion providers are seeking profits when their actions indicate the opposite. A prime example is given by Aoife O’Riordan at Consider the Tea Cosy in a discussion of Irish women traveling to Great Britain to obtain abortions. The anti-abortion folks say that British ads advocating for abortion in Ireland is “just a cynical move by those murdering scum to make more profits from killing cute little babies,” but as Aoife points out,
This one makes no sense. BPAS are challenging the Irish government to actually get off its butt and decriminalise abortion already. BPAS are a British organisation. Britain is where Irish pregnant people go to get abortions now. Irish pregnant people don’t get NHS treatment, so we have to pay privately for our abortions. If abortion were legal in Ireland, we would have abortions in Irish hospitals and clinics. Not British. This would mean that they would be paid less money by the 12 people a day who wouldn’t need to travel.
While in this post’s initial video, Students for Life argue that Planned Parenthood promotes ineffective contraception in order to generate abortion business, Planned Parenthood promotes the most effective method appropriate to each person’s situation and individual values. There is no doubt that contraception prevents abortion. It is the anti-abortion crusaders who rail against effective contraceptive methods, exaggerating their risks and indicating that they are methods of abortion, who generate more demand for abortions.
Anti-abortion groups claim that abortion is harmful to women’s health, citing connections to cancer (discredited) and poor mental health (discredited). They indicate that women who have had abortions have higher mortality rates than women who have not, without noting that a woman is 14 times more likely to die if she carries a pregnancy to term than if she has an abortion. They also note a connection between abortion and preterm birth, which would be eliminated if women accessed abortion early and relied on medical rather than surgical abortion.
Various anti-abortion groups do generate funds from spreading misleading propaganda about abortion. It is true that physicians and others who work to provide abortion services get paid for their work. But so do anti-abortion crusaders. Jezebel has already rounded up the profits those in the anti-abortion movement derive from abortion.
And Finally, Where are the Women?
Where do the women who want abortions fall in all of this? Are they the dupes portrayed in the initial video? Are they savages looking to shred babies for fun and profit? Or are they human beings making decisions? While women who have abortions make no money from the procedure, I think most of us would agree that the freedom to make one’s own decisions is priceless.