Conservatives often claim that they are against government waste — so why is it that they ignore the $21 billion annual cost to taxpayers each year presented by unwanted pregnancies? According to a new analysis released by the Guttmacher Institute, this averages out to savings of $366 per woman of childbearing age in the United States.
Roughly 1-in-20 American women have an unplanned pregnancy each year. The Washington Post notes that public funding – Medicaid, for instance – paid for 68 percent of those births. “On average, a publicly funded birth costs $12,770 in prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum care and the first 12 months of infant care; care for months 13–60 cost, on average, another $7,947, for a total cost per birth of $20,716,” according to the study.
While the percent of unplanned births paid for by the taxpayer varied state-by-state, the south plays host to the highest rate of unplanned births – and, the highest cost to taxpayers. In Georgia, Mississippi and Oklahoma, all of which rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, more than 80 percent of unplanned births were paid for with public money. In 2010 alone, the state of Georgia spent nearly $1 billion on unplanned births, as did the state of Illinois. Texas spent nearly $2.4 billion in 2010 alone.
While Republicans and others on the right may strongly oppose funding preventative programs, birth control, and even scientifically-accurate sex education classes, the Left has a slightly different viewpoint.
“Each year the United States’ publicly supported family planning program serves millions of low-income women. Although the health impact and public-sector savings associated with this program’s services extend well beyond preventing unintended pregnancy, they never have been fully quantified,” notes a study published in The Milbank Quarterly.
The study found that:
In 2010, care provided during publicly supported family planning visits averted an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, including 287,500 closely spaced and 164,190 preterm or low birth weight (LBW) births, 99,100 cases of chlamydia, 16,240 cases of gonorrhea, 410 cases of HIV, and 13,170 cases of pelvic inflammatory disease that would have led to 1,130 ectopic pregnancies and 2,210 cases of infertility. Pap and HPV tests and HPV vaccinations prevented an estimated 3,680 cases of cervical cancer and 2,110 cervical cancer deaths; HPV vaccination also prevented 9,000 cases of abnormal sequelae and precancerous lesions. Services provided at health centers supported by the Title X national family planning program accounted for more than half of these benefits.
The gross public savings attributed to these services totaled approximately $15.8 billion—$15.7 billion from preventing unplanned births, $123 million from STI/HIV testing, and $23 million from Pap and HPV testing and vaccines. Subtracting $2.2 billion in program costs from gross savings resulted in net public-sector savings of $13.6 billion.
“Public expenditures for the US family planning program not only prevented unintended pregnancies but also reduced the incidence and impact of preterm and LBW births, STIs, infertility, and cervical cancer,” the authors write in their conclusion. “This investment saved the government billions of public dollars, equivalent to an estimated taxpayer savings of $7.09 for every public dollar spent.”
For those not blinded by religious dogmas, Planned Parenthood and other programs that help prevent unplanned pregnancies are a good thing. Others like newly-elected Iowa Senator and Tea Party darling, Joni Ernst, however, are so against preventing unplanned pregnancies that they wish to declare fetuses to be “people.”
Last year, Ernst said she supports a Constitutional amendment that would “ban common forms of birth control and eliminate access to abortions even in the cases of rape or incest,” according to the Iowa Democratic Party. Even without considering the moral implications of a government takeover of women’s bodies, shouldn’t “fiscal conservatives” like Ernst be against the “waste” created by unplanned pregnancies?
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.