Better Birth Control Could Save Taxpayers $12.5 Billion Per Year


These days, you can’t swing an IUD around the US Capitol rotunda without hitting at least one politician who claims Americans are Taxed Enough Already!111! and in the same breath claim that both birth control and abortion are goddamn abominations (one of those politicians ran for Vice President last year!). Turns out, that stance doesn’t just smell stupid; it is stupid. It’s $12.5 billion per year’s worth of stupid.

A new report, compiled by Guttmacher, finds that in 2008, 2 of 3 unplanned pregnancies resulted in births that were publicly funded, and the combined cost of all those births was $12.5 billion. Overall, more than half of births that were paid for by public insurance programs were the result of unplanned pregnancies. Weeee!

This unfortunate state of affairs is due to a combination of things, all of which are depressing — the exorbitant cost of medical care, which is why many people need public assistance to afford to go to the doctor in the first place, low levels of education which limit women’s access to careers that can lift them out of poverty, no available jobs, lack of partner support. Etc.

According to the Guttmacher study, the high public cost of unplanned pregnancies is also the result of limiting access to birth control and abortion for poor women in many states that, as you can see by this map (used with Guttmacher’s permission), are spending an awful lot of money paying for low income women’s prenatal care, hospital care, and postbirth care for their unplanned children. Turns out, not paying for birth control is a hell of a lot more expensive than paying for birth control.

It makes sense that the most populous states — California, Florida, Texas, New York — would also spend the most money on public assistance for low income pregnant women. But there are some places on the map that utilize public funds for unplanned births at a higher proportion than the rest of the country. And all but three of them are in the South. You know where this is going.

Take Mississippi, for example. Mississippi, the reddest, most conservative Keep The Government Out Of My Medicare state in the country utilizes public funds in 83% of unplanned births. In 2008, the federal government spent $164.4 million on unplanned births in Mississippi (the state chipped in $51 million of its own). Mississippi contains one (1) abortion clinic, and that facility is constantly under a barrage of hostile legislation designed to shut it down. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant — who opposes the morning after pill and IUDs because buys into the personhood belief that sperm is magic and therefore zygotes are people— has famously said he wants to make Mississippi the country’s first abortion-free state. It’s already the fattest and poorest state, so great priorities, bro. In Governor Bryant’s Twitter profile, he describes himself as a “strong fiscal conservative.”

A strong fiscal conservative who uses magic to justify advocating incredibly fiscally irresponsible policies. You know. An idiot.

And then there’s Texas and its latex-faced Governor Rick Perry, who has spent the last several years absolutely shitting on poor women. Texas spent more than $2 billion on unplanned births in 2008, and while Guttmacher doesn’t have data on how much is being spent now that the state’s nightmare anti-abortion and anti-women’s health laws have gone into effect, it’s not tough to theorize about what might come next. Educated guess: things have gotten worse. Second educated guess: Rick Perry still thinks he’s a fiscally responsible dude.

Braying idiot Rush Limbaugh once said that taxpayer-funded birth control is akin to “paying women to have sex.” I’ve talked to (and been angrily tweeted at by) dozens of conservatives who think the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate is AN OUTRAGE because ladies be needing to pay for they sex themselves. Problem is, in no draconian reimagining of the US Constitution must poor people earn a certain amount of money in order to be allowed to have sex. And because low income people will have sex regardless of whether they have access to birth control because they are humans, just like rich people, the public must either bear the cost of preventing pregnancy, bear the cost of unplanned pregnancy, or allow poor women to bleed and die in the street. Which one is the most pro-life and fiscally conservative?

Of course, this isn’t to imply that assistance for low income mothers is a waste of money; just that empowering low income women to prevent unplanned pregnancies will benefit their families and the country’s bottom line. There’s nothing less pro-woman or pro-family than policies that severely limit women’s reproductive options and then punishes them once their children are born.

Report co-author Adam Sonfield suggests that fixing this glaring micro and macro economic problem is do-able. He says,

Reducing the $12.5 billion in public costs for births resulting from unintended pregnancies requires substantial new public investments in family planning services and comprehensive sex education. The Affordable Care Act is a big step in the right direction, with its expansions of public and private insurance coverage and the requirement that most private health plans cover the full range of contraceptive methods and services without out-of-pocket costs.

Do-able, yes. Likely? I’d say the whackjobs who control the US House of Representatives will get to helping poor women when pigs fly. Or when Marco Rubio admits he’s going bald.


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