A few thoughts on the recently-passed Stupak Amendment, which limits federally-subsidized abortion coverage . . . .
First, President Obama feverishly (and, at the time, disingenuously) denied allegations that the health care reform bills before Congress would allow for any federal funding of abortions. This was essentially the status quo under the Hyde Amendment and subsequent legislation. No one should be surprised that this amendment passed, since the president had promised as much.
Second, the amendment does not prohibit federal funding for all abortions. There are exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother. These exceptions fit with the mainstream view on abortion rights.
Third, a strong plurality of Americans believe that abortion should be "legal only in a few circumstances." This is reflected in the composition of the House of Representatives, where a majority of legislators supported the amendment. Those who are broadly in favor of abortion rights (myself included) must acknowledge that we live in a democracy where relatively few Americans support a universal right to abortion. Most people have complex views on the subject.
Fourth, a person's stance on abortion is not strongly associated with gender. In fact, most studies I've seen show no statistically significant difference between men and women on this issue. Today, women are more likely to call themselves "pro-life" than "pro-choice."
Update: Ezra Klein makes an interesting point:
[T]he biggest federal subsidy for private insurance coverage is untouched by Stupak's amendment. It's the $250 billion the government spends each year making employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free.
That money, however, subsidizes the insurance of 157 million Americans, many of them quite affluent. Imagine if Stupak had attempted to expand his amendment to their coverage. It would, after all, have been the same principle: Federal policy should not subsidize insurance that offers abortion coverage.
This is certainly how economists and policy analysts would view the situation. Although, I suspect most ordinary Americans would recognize a slight difference between providing a direct federal subsidy for health insurance and merely lifting the tax on employer-provided insurance.
I wonder if Ezra shares Greg Mankiw's fears about marginal tax rates . . . .