Civil Liberties

Public Funding and Abortions


Now that the Supreme Court has upheld a ban on late-term abortions, pro-lifers in Maine are going after Vacationland's public funding of the procedure, regardless of when in the pregnancy it occurs. From the Portland Press-Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram's account:

Abortion foes in Maine celebrated Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal prohibition on so-called "partial-birth" abortions, but they also remained focused on their next priority: defeating a state measure that would provide public financing for abortions….

[Abortion opponents] hoped the victory would inspire people opposed to the funding bill sponsored by Senate President Beth Edmonds. Edmonds, D-Freeport, said she was disappointed in the court ruling but didn't think it would affect her bill. The measure, she said, is not about whether a woman should have an abortion but about helping those who would have to suffer financial hardship to have the procedure. "It's a fairness issue," she said.

The paper reports that about 2,500 abortions get done in Maine each year. More here.

I'm pro-choice but opposed to public funding of abortions–and indeed, public funding for most things, from the arts to the zoos. That's not (simply) because I'm stingy. Public funding inherently politicizes whatever activity is in question, forcing electoral minorities to subsidize the preferences of majorities (or, more accurately, well-connected interest groups who can work the system). Apart from any and all issues raised by abortion (or anything else), that sort of thing ups the level of societal acrimony tremendously.

As with schools and so much more, I'd prefer to see the state's reach reduced to as small a share as possible, with private funding sources, including for-profits, nonprofits, and charities, doling out money donated by folks who are politically and ideologically simpatico with whatever they're funding. This wouldn't reduce arguments about what is good, moral, and effective (whether the topic is abortion, school curricula, or religion), but it would be far more preferable than, say, forcing anti-drug war types to fund DARE programs or social cons to pony up their tax dollars for sex ed programs they deem wrong.

Bonus irony in the SCOTUS decision, especially given how often conservatives rail against Roe v. Wade and, more generally, judges who create legislation via judicial fiat rather than enforce the will of the people: 

The court decision accomplished what Maine abortion opponents were unable to do in the state. In 1999, Maine voters rejected a ban on the "partial-birth" procedure, with 56 percent opposed. Since then, similar proposals have been among the unsuccessful measures submitted in the Legislature to restrict abortion.

On the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I surveyed the uneasy status quo regarding abortion rights here.

Damon Root made the libertarian case for judicial activism here.