GOP-Backed Federal 20-Week Abortion Ban Could Add $400 Million to Deficit

Think House Republicans are deficit hawks? Not when it comes to rolling back reproductive rights.

Conservative governors are amassing millions of dollars in legal fees defending unconstitutional abortion restrictions while many in their states go without basic care. Million dollars via Shutterstock

Republican members of the House of Representatives like to present themselves as deficit hawks. But when it comes to rolling back reproductive rights, those very same members of Congress are willing to make an exception. According to a report released Friday by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), HR 1797—the bill passed by the House last month that would ban virtually all abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization—could add as much as $400 million to the deficit.

The CBO report assesses the potential for added costs to Medicaid, the medical program for low-income people that is jointly funded by the federal government and the states, for the additional pregnancies that would be brought to term because of the ban. Because the 20-week ban would represent a new limit (in contradiction of the viability limit prescribed in Roe v. Wade), CBO has little hard data on which to base its projections, so it offers a wide-ranging estimate for the addition to the deficit anticipated if the bill were to pass the Senate, which is unlikely in this current session of Congress. While CBO researchers are uncertain of the number of millions the bill would add to the deficit, they conclude that it would add at least $75 million.

The report does not appear to have taken into account the medical costs of caring for the additional babies born with severe, life-threatening conditions, since it is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to be presented with evidence of such conditions until the 19th or 20th week of pregnancy. (CBO did immediately respond to Rewire‘s questions on this matter.)

From the CBO report:

CBO expects that most women who would be affected by H.R. 1797 would seek earlier abortions. But how many women would do so is an important determinant of additional federal costs. For example, if 90 percent of women who would have sought an abortion 20 weeks or more after fertilization instead were to seek earlier abortions, federal spending would rise by about $75 million over 10 years. If only half of those women were to obtain earlier abortions, then federal spending could rise by more than $400 million over 10 years.

Despite the unlikelihood of the 20-week abortion ban becoming law at the national level in the current session of Congress, similar measures are up for votes in state legislatures. Unwilling to accept defeat of a similar ban, SB 5, in Texas in a raucous session of the state Senate last week, Republican Gov. Rick Perry called a special session of the state legislature to reintroduce the bill this week.

And in Ohio, where a mandatory special assessment for women seeking abortions at 20 weeks or later is already in effect, Republican Gov. John Kasich just signed a budget bill, HB 59, that cuts off federal funding for Ohio family planning clinics—$1.4 million for Planned Parenthood alone—while funding religious crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) that exist to dissuade women from having abortions. The Ohio bill also requires women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds, bars treatment in public hospitals for women suffering complications related to abortion, and forbids rape crisis centers that receive public funding from providing information about abortion to the women they assist.

Because Medicaid is jointly funded by the states and the federal government, it might be expected that state-level abortion restrictions will result in higher costs to the states as well. In Texas, the state has struggled to adequately fund Medicaid, according to the New York Times, and Gov. Perry turned down an additional $100 billion over the next decade when he declined to enroll Texas in the Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act.

In 2011, Ohio’s Kasich slashed state services and aid to local governments in order to address an $8 billion budget deficit.

h/t Jake Sherman, Politico