Curbing Female Reproductive Rights Raises Taxpayer Costs
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.
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.