How much money does the federal government spend on abortions each year?

With the current cost of health care and the economic downturn of 2008, many people are left wondering how they're going to cover the cost of everyday and emergency health care, which sometimes may include the possibility of an abortion. The total government funding for legal abortions originates in health care policies and coverage, current Medicaid laws and government support and funding for private clinics that cater to women's reproductive health.


In 2007, the estimated number of legal abortions performed in the United States was estimated to be around 1.37 million. Ninety per cent of these abortions were performed in the first trimester, and the other 10 per cent were performed in the second and third trimesters. The National Coalition of Abortion providers estimates that the average cost of an abortion performed in the first trimester is around £227, while the average cost of a second trimester abortion grows to about £1,625. The research group Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) estimated that the total annual cost of all abortions performed in the United States is around £637 million. While most abortions are done in private clinics and are not covered by government funding, there are a few government grants and contracts provided to abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood, for example, receives about £175 million annually from government funded grants (see Resources below).


Abortions have been performed for many centuries before there were any legal repercussions involved. In the late 1800s, abortions were performed by non-traditionally trained women healers. In 1803, Britain passed an antiabortion law and individual states in the United States began to follow suit. By 1880, most of the United States had banned abortion and it stayed this way well into the twentieth century. By 1970, some states began to amend the antiabortion laws and several private organisations began to aide women in covering the high costs of these abortions with loans and other services. After the Supreme Court legalised abortions in 1973, Medicaid covered its costs for eligible women. In 1977, the Hyde Amendment (see Resources) banned Medicaid funding for abortions unless a woman's life was in danger.


Seventeen states fund abortions at the state level. While Medicaid is a federally funded health insurance program that funds legal abortions when the mother's health is at risk, it is estimated that only 1 in 5 Medicaid-eligible women receive this funding. Government aid for abortion procedures aside, there is still the issue of government funding for the teaching of abortion procedures. It has been estimated that 12 per cent of the OB/GYN residency programs in the United States train in first-trimester abortions, and an even smaller percentage, only 7 per cent, train their residents in second-trimester abortions.


Because of the raw debate over the morality of abortion, government funding has been slow coming and limited. Limited government funding for legal abortion procedures has had a greater impact on poor women, women of colour and young women. Experts believe that those women who cannot afford the high cost of private abortions run the greatest risks when it comes to the dangers of illegal and self-aborting procedures. Even with the legalisation of abortion in 1973, 75 per cent of women that year obtained illegal abortions from unlicensed practitioners or by self-aborting. Ninety per cent of the legal abortions performed in the United States that year were done on white upper-class patients.


Many people point out that legalised abortion means very little without proper funding. The necessity of abortions has not decreased since it has been legalised, and many women, especially poor and young women, find themselves self-aborting because they cannot afford to pay for a safe and legal abortion. Without proper government funding, women resort to dangerous and often fatal methods of abortion, which oftentimes don't even work. When self-aborting techniques do not work, women are often forced to seek expensive medical treatment anyway.

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About the Author

Based in New York, Jillian Downer has been writing travel, fashion, and active lifestyle articles since 2004. Her work has appeared in "Travel + Leisure," "Outside Magazine," "Women's Health," "Footwear News," and "US News & World Report." Downer holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from New York University.