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Restricting Reproductive Rights Adds To The Debt

Since the GOP often distills issues down to dollars and cents, perhaps this will give them reason to rethink their attack on women’s reproductive freedoms:

Celeste Warden takes night classes at a local community college as she works toward a bachelor’s degree, and she’s got a job earning $14,000 a year at a local non-profit. She helps care for her elderly parents, owns a white Nissan Versa and has built up $1,000 in savings.

Warden is convinced she would have achieved little of that had she not had an abortion in 2007, when she was an unwed, 29- year-old woman with neither a college degree nor a steady job. “I couldn’t have cared for a child — I was having a hard time at that point caring for myself,” she said in an interview.

As restrictions on abortion and contraception have become the subject of state legislative action and Republican presidential candidates’ pitches to voters, arguments have focused on the issue’s moral and religious dimensions. Less attention has been paid to the financial implications to states, businesses and women if governments impose policies that lead to increases in unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. The economic ramifications of such policies are important as the nation recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression and governments work to reduce debts and deficits. “There’s a simple math in place: more unintended pregnancies mean more public costs,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “Especially for the deficit hawks, it is a penny-wise-pound-foolish strategy.”
Value of Life

Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for Americans United for Life, a Washington-based legal organization that seeks to overturn abortion rights, rejected that conclusion, saying the value of life can’t be reduced to dollars and cents. “The unknown and absolute value of life is clear in what a person brings to society,” Hamrick said. “Let’s look, for example, at a girl who gets pregnant in college, does marry the father of her child, works to raise this child, and he becomes president. That’s Barack Obama,” she said, in a reference to the life experiences of the president’s mother.

About 49 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, compared with 33 percent in France, according to data compiled by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which studies abortion trends.
Medicaid Costs

In Oklahoma, where Warden, 34, resides, Medicaid paid for the treatment and delivery costs for more than 70 percent of the 26,100 unintended pregnancies in 2006, the only year for which state-by-state data is available, according to Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Guttmacher Institute.

For the Sooner State, which had the 10th-highest percentage of such births among states that year, the price tag for prenatal and post-partum care for the woman and infant was $55.6 million while the federal government’s share of those costs was $117.6 million. Nationwide, federal and state government costs for treating and delivering unintended pregnancies in 2006 was more than $11 billion.

The National Business Group on Health, which helps large employers structure health benefits packages, reports that most of its 346 members include contraception because it saves money. Employers who cover birth control, at an average cost of about $39 per female employee per year, end up saving about $9,000 per female employee in any two-year period compared to those who don’t, according to a report from the nonprofit, which doesn’t take political positions. “Contraceptive coverage translates to lower costs,” said Debbie Harrison, the senior public policy manager for the group.
Family Planning Savings

Publicly-funded family planning services save state and federal governments $4.3 billion each year, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Contraceptive use saves almost $19 billion in direct medical costs annually and reduces the occurrence of abortion, according to the campaign, a Washington-based nonprofit.

The effects of an unintended pregnancy on women are both personal and financial. A disproportionate share of women who experience unplanned pregnancies are teenaged, unmarried or low-income with higher incidences of mental illness, unstable relationships, physical abuse and welfare assistance, said Adam Thomas, a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute in Washington. Expanded access to contraception, meanwhile, increases educational attainment and labor force participation, he said.

If I was a betting man, I would confidently lay a wager that the financial impact of these restrictions will not in any way dissuade the GOP from continuing down this road of political suicide. Rather, the calculation will only change once the GOP realizes that they are hemorrhaging away the women’s vote by being so openly hostile to reproductive rights. For years we have been lectured by the right about the horrors of Sharia law and how it represses women. Yet ironically enough, the GOP is practicing their own version of Sharia law with the same effect.


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