Cut and Run: The Costs of Not Supporting Family Planning

Oct 11th, 2011 | By | Category: Economics and GDP, Energy and Carbon Emissions, Family Planning, Food and Hunger/Agriculture, Other Resources, Water Issues

 Another day, another battle in Congress over budget cuts. This  time it is over international family planning assistance. Do we  fund it, or let the 215 million women who would rather avoid  pregnancy but don’t have the knowledge of or access to  reproductive health services just go on with business as usual?  The answer is rather simple – educate and empower women and  their families to decide for themselves when and if they are ready  to try and have a healthy child and safe pregnancy and provide the tools to do so.

Though the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved $700 million in funding for international family planning programs, there will be a fight coming with the House of Representatives. The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee is pushing a 25% cut in family planning assistance. The Guttmacher Institute has calculated the effects of cutting U.S. family planning assistance by 25%:

· 9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services
· Almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies
· 1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)
· 1.3 million more unplanned births
· 7,700 more maternal deaths

Family planning assistance is critical for families in the U.S, too. You might have heard the announcement this past August that the Obama Administration will now require health insurance companies to waive co-payments on contraceptives. Unsurprisingly, the news resulted in a range of opinions across the spectrum. What should be welcome news – access for women wanting family planning tools – was criticized by different factions. Of course if you don’t agree with the concept of reproductive choice, that’s your right and you’re entitled to your beliefs, but those against greater access to it should really consider some of the findings that show how smart a move this really is for families.

Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at The New Republic, had an excellent blog post recently on co-payments and use of birth control. He cited a study in the journal Health Services Research on a California program to offer free family planning services to low-income women who weren’t able to qualify for Medicaid.

The study concluded that the program significantly reduced not just abortions but also miscarriages and ectopic (tubal) pregnancies. One of the reasons is that women who have unintended pregnancies are less likely to get early prenatal care, which is key to a healthy pregnancy. Cohn stated that even if cost doesn’t deter women from using birth control altogether, it can deter them from using the most effective types, which are also the most expensive. So perhaps waiving co-pays can be good for families and society.

You can read the other studies Cohn cited on co-payments and use of birth control here.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 36 million American women were in need of contraceptive services and supplies, meaning they were sexually active and able to become pregnant, but were not pregnant and did not wish to become pregnant.

Another of their studies showed that the rate of “unintended pregnancies in the United States ranks among the highest among the world’s most developed countries” and costs American taxpayers at least $11 billion per year. Susan Cohen, director of government affairs for Guttmacher, told the New York Times that “for every dollar spent on contraception for low-income women, the government saves four dollars in medical costs within the next year by averting unwanted pregnancies.”

Providing information and safe, easy access to affordable contraception and reproductive health care protects and improves lives. Isn’t this what we should be striving for today?




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