Saturday, March 7, 2015

Unintended Pregnancies, Contraception and The High Cost of Right Wing Ignorance

 by Nomad

The Republican Congress may be hell-bent on restricting abortive services for women but in the end, all of their misguided efforts are going to end up. in real terms, costing the nation a lot more.

The Washington Post recently reported on the taxpayer costs  of blindly following Republican policies when it comes to women's health and sex education.  
According to a new analysis released by the Guttmacher Institute, unintended  pregnancies cost American taxpayers $21 billion each year.
That averages out to a cost of about $366 per every woman of childbearing age in the U.S. Overall, more than half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and roughly 1-in-20 American women of reproductive age have an unplanned pregnancy each year.
A full 68 percent of the million unplanned births are paid for by public insurance programs like Medicaid.  

These costs cover prenatal care, labor, delivery post-partum care and infant care for the first year. All those medical costs can quickly add up to something in the range of $21,000 per child. 

How many of those children end up in foster homes- costing the state even more- or are raised in households requiring government assistance is yet another problem without a solution. 

A Southern Problem
And there is a real North-South divide between the states when it comes to unplanned births. 
The lowest rates could be found in New England and the West, while the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy were found in Southern States. More than half of all births in Mississippi (56%) were unplanned.

This problem is costing taxpayers a lot. The report points out:
In some states -- Georgia, Mississippi and Oklahoma -- more than 80 percent of unplanned births were paid for by public dollars. Georgia taxpayers spent nearly $1 billion on unplanned births in 2010, as did taxpayers in Chicago. California spent $1.8 billion, while unplanned births cost the state of Texas nearly $3 billion dollars in 2010.
It's not a coincidence. Let's take a closer look at the Lone Star State for a moment.
Mother Jones reported  that, since 2011, Texas legislators have attempted to cut funding for family planning and rejected a $30 million a year in federal Medicaid money in order to "squeeze Planned Parenthood out of the state's women's health programs."
As a result, researchers says that
Nearly 200,000 Texas women have lost or could lose access to contraception, cancer screenings, and basic preventive care, especially in low-income, rural parts of the state.
Most of the Southern states are going down the same costly path. Mississippi, the poorest state in America, had a rate of around 62%  unplanned pregnancies. 
But that data comes from 2010,  and efforts to close down Planned Parenthood clinics have stepped up considerably since then.

This Republican initiative makes even less sense when you consider that Planned Parenthood focuses much more of its efforts on prevention, not abortion. Some 80% of the women who go to these clinics receive services to prevent unintended pregnancies, mostly through contraceptives, not through abortion.

Killing Title X
In January of this year, more than 80 House Republicans sought to restrict federal funding for women's health providers that also conduct abortions. They claim to be going after "the big abortion industry" but the main target seems to Planned Parenthood. 
In fact, only 3% of all  Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services. 

According to sources, the legislation took aim at Title X family planning grants, which give money for services ranging from infertility counseling to STD testing. Furthermore, Title X family planning centers help to avert an estimated one million unintended pregnancies. There's even more.
Title X staff are specially trained to meet the contraceptive needs of individuals with limited English proficiency, teenagers, and those confronting complex medical and personal issues such as substance abuse, disability, homelessness or interpersonal and domestic violence.
Given all that, what rationale could any party give for attempting to shut down such a program? That's easy to answer. Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest recipient of the Title X grants. So, despite all of the benefits to society, all of the savings, the Republicans in Congress would sacrifice them all in the name of the crusade against abortion.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who supported the Republican defunding effort, declared:
"Planned Parenthood and organizations like it that profit off the destruction of innocent life do not deserve one more dime from American taxpayers.”
What Black didn't tell taxpayers is that in  2012, publically supported family planning centers like Planned Parenthood served 129,430 female contraceptive clients. Those centers met 30% of Tennessee women’s need for contraceptive services and supplies, compared with 31% met by family planning centers nationally. 
Because of her personal stance against abortion, Black- (a former nurse, I might add) would deny reproductive health to thousands of women in her state. 

Ultimately, Rep. Black isn't saving her state or the nation any money at all. In fact, defunding grants in an effort to stop abortion is actually going to add unnecessary government spending.  

Title X provides significant cost savings to taxpayers. In 2008, every every public dollar spent on contraceptive services yielded an estimated $3.74 in savings that would have been spent on Medicaid costs related to pregnancy care and delivery and to infants in their first year of life
Moreover, that doesn't even include the money saved from the prevention and treatment of STDs or from the early detection of reproductive cancers. There are also the broader health, social and economic benefits that come from planning and preparing for pregnancies, especially for poor younger women.

The Difference between Contraception and Abortion
Anti-abortion activists groups have attempted to conflate contraceptive family planning and abortion. Blurring the line presumably serves their purposes. That assertion, however, contradicts what science and all medical associations say about how pregnancies are established and how contraceptives work.
Here are the facts:
A contraceptive method, by definition, prevents pregnancy by interfering with ovulation, fertilization or implantation. Abortion ends an established pregnancy, after implantation. This scientific definition of pregnancy—which reflects the fact that most fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant in the uterus—is also the legal definition, and has long been accepted by federal agencies (during administrations both supportive of and opposed to abortion rights), and by U.S. and international medical associations.
To allege anything else is not what the science tells us. Anti-abortion groups can all believe what they want, of course, but they would not have the support of the medical community.

So what are the Republicans offering to replace the contraceptives or abortion? Abstinence-only programs, and that's it. 

For years, objective research has shown strong evidence that such programs neither work in practical terms nor do they reflect the reality of American culture or its values. 

Pre-marital sex is happening whether some people like it or not. 
The median age of sexual initiation among Americans is 17 and the average age of marriage is 25.8 for women and 27.4 for men. This age difference clearly indicates a long time between sexual onset and marriage. In a major, nationally representative survey, 95 percent of adult respondents, ages 18 through 44, reported that they had sex before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81 percent reported having had premarital sex.
The highly touted conservative approach of abstinence before marriage (without information on contraceptives) is also not what the majority of Americans want. One study found that a full 70% of the respondents opposed such programs.

Too bad the Republicans are not listening.
Since 1996, the United States has wasted more than $1.5 billion in federal and state funding on abstinence-only programs that fail to teach teens how to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
A 10-year government study found that abstinence-only programs did not delay sexual initiation or lower rates of pregnancy or STIs, and the Institute of Medicine called for the termination of abstinence-only programs because they represented “poor fiscal and public health policy.”
Not only that, organizations that push abstinence programs are also responsible for disseminating false or inaccurate statements on contraceptives. Such groups claim, for example, that condoms have a high failure rate in preventing unintended pregnancy or that condoms do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases like the human papillomavirus (HPV), or HIV. 
Those are lies that can lead not merely to an unintended pregnancy, but to an early death.

So the Republican policy is based on ignorance and is clearly not realistic. It's been shown not to be working. It's more expensive and taxpayers are footing the bill. To top it off, the American public doesn't even really want the Republican alternative.

All in all, it's hard to find a better example of irresponsible policy courtesy of the far Right Republicans.