Should the AEA Have Conferences in Canada?

Some members of the American Economics Association have recently written to the AEA to ask that it move its 2023 meetings away from New Orleans and its 2024 meetings away from Texas. Their stated reason is that Louisiana and Texas have laws that heavily restrict abortion. They write:

These restrictions on healthcare place an undue, differential burden on young women in the economics profession, who are forced to balance the risk of needing medical care unavailable in Louisiana with their professional obligation to attend the Annual Meetings.

My Hoover colleague John Cochrane discusses the issues quite thoroughly.

Their petition to the AEA got me thinking about something else. Would these petitioners also advocate not having the AEA conference in Canada?

Here’s a quote from a June 25 article at Time.com:

On average, women wait one to two weeks for an abortion in Canada and as long as five weeks for later-term abortion care, according to Action Canada.

So if the meetings were held in Canada, the young women they worry about would have an even harder time getting an abortion in Canada.

Here’s another quote from the same story:

“Even though we have the fully enshrined right to this service, that doesn’t mean that it’s widely available,” said Kelly Bowden, director of Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations at Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights.

This quote beautifully states the essence of single-payer: you have a right to health care, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it. As I once put it in a radio interview in which I was discussing Canada’s Medicare system:

Canada’s Medicare doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get medical care; it guarantees simply that you’ll be able to line up for medical care.

Now there is a silver lining, from the same article, that the petitioners to the AEA could point to:

Most of the clinics that have capacity are in Toronto and Montreal, said Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. But it’s much harder to find clinics in Canada’s western provinces, meaning women in states such as North Dakota and South Dakota — which could soon have new restrictions — will have difficulty finding services. She said it also could promote a system where Canadian practitioners prefer Americans who pay in cash. (italics added.)

“We want to help Americans but it’s difficult because we want to take care of Canadians first,” Arthur said. “It could result in a two-tiered system.”

So maybe the petitioners would not object to having the AEA meet in Canada because there is relatively free market in medical care in Canada for those who are not Canadian residents. I’ve heard stranger things than economists advocating free markets.