BREAKING: CBO Says Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Lead to More Births

• March 15, 2017 4:31 pm


In my four or so years of journalism I have never read a report produced by the Congressional Budget Office. Yesterday I learned why. Here is the first paragraph of "Budget Reconciliation Recommendations of the House Committees on Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce, March 9, 2017":

The Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 directed the House Committees on Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce to develop legislation to reduce the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have produced an estimate of the budgetary effects of the American Health Care Act, which combines the pieces of legislation approved by the two committees pursuant to that resolution. In consultation with the budget committees, CBO used its March 2016 baseline with adjustments for subsequently enacted legislation, which underlies the resolution, as the benchmark to measure the cost of the legislation.

Twenty-three pages and hundreds of acronyms later, my eyes had glazed over. Then I noticed these two paragraphs under the heading "Provision Affecting Planned Parenthood":

To the extent that there would be reductions in access to care under the legislation, they would affect services that help women avert pregnancies. The people most likely to experience reduced access to care would probably reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations. CBO projects that about 15 percent of those people would lose access to care.

The government would incur some costs for Medicaid beneficiaries currently served by affected entities because the costs of about 45 percent of all births are paid for by the Medicaid program. CBO estimates that the additional births stemming from the reduced access under the legislation would add to federal spending for Medicaid. In addition, some of those children would themselves qualify for Medicaid and possibly for other federal programs. By CBO’s estimates, in the one-year period in which federal funds for Planned Parenthood would be prohibited under the legislation, the number of births in the Medicaid program would increase by several thousand, increasing direct spending for Medicaid by $21 million in 2017 and by $77 million over the 2017-2026 period. Overall, with those costs netted against the savings estimated above, implementing the provision would reduce direct spending by $156 million over the 2017-2026 period, CBO estimates.

The miracle of pregnancy described as something a woman must "avert" ("to prevent, especially danger"), like bankruptcy or highway robbery or gingivitis; human beings made in the image of God coldly dismissed as "additional births stemming from … reduced access," as if they were the products of sporogenesis; the livelihood of the poor reduced to impersonal "costs" to be "netted against" projected "savings"—who can read this and not feel the air growing heavier, the aromatic scent, as of cedar logs and bitumen, flooding his nostrils, see the plumed feathers bedecking the shoulders of gilt statues and the ash falling like snowflakes?

What was buried under jargon and statistics and unconsciously vicious assumptions in the CBO report was made explicit in a write-up I saw later from the Washington Post. After Planned Parenthood's "vice president for public policy" bemoans the "disastrous consequences" of pregnancy we come to one of the vilest sentences I have ever read in a newspaper:

Anti-abortion advocates zeroed in on the expectation that more babies would be born, which struck them as reason to celebrate.

"[W]hich struck them as reason to celebrate": I have tried over and over again to come up with a description of the rhetorical work being done there, much less a rejoinder. But I think I'll just leave it there.