By TCCRI Staff. Nov. 14, 2019
Senate Bill 22 (authored by Senator Donna Campbell and sponsored by Representative Candy Noble), which took effect on September 1, advances a public policy supported by a majority of Americans: Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize abortions.
To say that abortion presents complicated public policy issues is an understatement. Where one side sees “reproductive rights,” the other sees the unjustified killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent unborn babies every year and over 60 million since Roe v. Wadewas decided in 1973. While public support or opposition to abortion varies depending on the question and its wording, a majority of Americans tend to agree that abortions should not be provided at taxpayer expense.
William Saletan summarized the most recent polling on this issue in a June article for Slate. The piece,
Abortion Funding Isn’t As Popular As Democrats Think, is unequivocal:
In every poll, a plurality of Americans opposes public funding of abortions. In every poll but one, that plurality is a majority. The questions vary, but the result is the same. Respondents support “banning federal funding for abortion” except in rape cases or to save the woman’s life (Politico/Morning Consult, 2019). They believe that “government health insurance programs for low-income women, like Medicaid,” should not “cover abortion” (PRRI, 2018). They oppose “using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion” (Marist, 2019). They oppose allowing “Medicaid funds to be used to pay for abortions” (Politico/Harvard, 2016). When they’re told that “the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used to fund abortions, except in the case of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother,” they endorse the amendment (YouGov, 2016). These polls aren’t close. The average gap between the pro-funding and anti-funding positions is 19 percentage points.
Saletan goes on to point out that “women are no more likely than men to support [taxpayer funded abortion]. The sexes differ on other reproductive policy questions, but not on abortion funding.” Polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Harvard, and others all produce similar findings. The Slate piece goes on to cite numerous additional studies to support the general proposition that taxpayer funded abortions are wildly unpopular no matter how the issue is framed or what demographic is isolated.
Within that context, Senate Bill 22 generally prohibits governmental entities from entering contracts with an abortion provider (or an affiliate) if the contract provides value derived from tax revenue. For example, the City of Austin leases public property to Planned Parenthood for $1 per year, which allows Planned Parenthood to save $111,000 per year on rent. Given the generally accepted understanding that money is fungible, this six-figure subsidy allows Planned Parenthood to spend more money on abortion services. SB 22 prohibits contracts like the one between Austin and Planned Parenthood in the future. And if there was ever any doubt that Austin’s contract with Planned Parenthood was about subsidizing abortion, that doubt was extinguished by the City promptly adopting a policy of providing taxpayer dollars directly to women seeking abortions.
While abortion proponents argue that organizations like Planned Parenthood need government subsidies in order to provide valuable non-abortion services, this argument falls flat. According to its 2017-2018 Annual Report, Planned Parenthood and all of its affiliates have roughly $1.9 billion in combined net assets and a majority of its funding comes from private donations and the fees it charges its clients. Moreover, President Leana Wen makes clear that expanding access to abortion is the “core mission” of Planned Parenthood. Given its mission and resources, Planned Parenthood does not have a case for the government’s patronage.
Abortion is a legal practice, but state and local governments have no responsibility to do business with abortion providers, and a moral obligation not to force Texans to subsidize the practice. SB 22 is a welcome restriction on government.