How Cutting Medicaid Hurts Pro-Life Groups

As the divisive health care debate wages on, the fate of Medicaid is left hanging in the balance. In reality, however, despite the fact that many are hoping to punish places that provide abortion procedures (like Planned Parenthood), Republicans who plan on cutting Medicaid are actually hurting pro-life groups too, and in a major way. Simply put, parties advocating for the shrinking of Medicaid might not realize how deep Medicaid assistance runs, even within their own pro-life efforts and initiatives.

Many conservative voters and lawmakers critique Medicaid's connection with Planned Parenthood, as they believe that the abortion services it provides will in turn be covered by Medicaid. But, as it's been stressed time and time again: Planned Parenthood's Medicaid-funded endeavors consist of preventative health care services like birth control products, STI testing, and Pap smears.

What's more, under the Hyde Amendment, using federal funds for abortion services is actually illegal (except in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's life is in danger), so any abortion services that the organization does provide are simply not funded by the government, either through Medicaid or otherwise. Still, the mere connection of Medicaid to an abortion provider has many cheering for it to be defunded.

But what many don't realize is that pregnancy crisis centers, which are a pro-life staple, actually rely on Medicaid in order to provide their own services as well. In these facilities, women are often counseled against getting abortions and are provided supposed alternatives instead.

As Tina Tuley-Lampke the Executive Director of the Hannah Center in Bloomington, Indiana told NPR, of women who come to them and choose to carry their fetuses to term, "For many women it's not truly a choice when they feel like they don't have any other options." Thus, the Hannah Center can then point to Medicaid as a "choice," or a support system for low-income women who may feel like they have no resources or money to help them out when their babies do arrive.

Taylor Merendo, who attended the Hannah Center when she was six months pregnant, insisted that she couldn't have paid for her prenatal visits and her baby's delivery without federal help. "If Medicaid wouldn't have paid for it," she told NPR, "it would have been thousands of dollars. And being a single mother, you really just can't — can't pay for that."

According to the most recent figures, in the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are covered by Medicaid. To be pro-life, then, is to be pro-Medicaid. As these testaments have shown, so many women are unable to bear the cost of a pregnancy on their own, so unless pro-life groups are willing to provide their own, private, alternative funding for prenatal care and delivery costs, their argument that it's possible for low-income women to support a child weakens.

If the House and Senate Health Care legislation reverses Medicaid expansion, pregnant women will have fewer support mechanisms, period. Whichever side of the aisle you sit on, it's impossible to ignore that a lack of comprehensive resources stresses low-income pregnant women more, leaving them with even fewer options than ever.