Birth Control Saves Money. Again.

Birth Control Saves Money. Again. March 19, 2012

Max Fisher makes the fiscal conservative case for making birth control available as widely and as cheaply as possible, noting one of numerous studies that show how contraception coverage saves many more times its cost in both public and private funds.

Put aside the fact that contraception is used to treat conditions that have nothing to do with sex (this was Fluke’s actual point). Put aside that a woman’s ability to control whether or not she is pregnant is about as fundamental and important as the right to health gets. (I’ve never been pregnant, but it sure seems like a more serious medical condition than a lot of the things we expect health insurance to pay to prevent, such as the flu.) Put aside that it’s only if we assume all women are abstinent or should be that female contraception is about promoting sex instead of protecting health, and that no society in history has ever made this assumption. Even put aside that O’Reilly and Limbaugh don’t complain about male contraception such as vasectomies, and they definitely don’t complain about “paying for people to go skiing,” which is exactly what happens when your health care premiums go toward fixing all those broken legs.

Even if you reject all of the above, you should still want health care to cover female contraception, and you should be excited about paying for it. This is because health care subsidies on birth control actually save you money — a lot of money. Every dollar that our society spends on preventing unintended pregnancies produces us “savings of between two and six dollars,” according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. The savings come from averting health care, child care, and other costs associated with unplanned pregnancies. That’s a rate of return of 100% to 500%, making it one of the safest and most profitable investments anywhere.

“Unintended pregnancies are disproportionately concentrated among women who are unmarried, teenaged, and poor,” the report finds. Those are all groups of people who could probably use help affording contraception. If you happen to dislike the idea of your money going to help poor, unmarried, or teenage women, consider the fact that you will not just get your money back, you’ll at least double it and at most quintuple. You’ll enjoy this profit in the form of lower health care costs and lower taxes.

The reverse may also be true: spending less money on contraception services leads to higher health care costs and higher taxes. When Texas cut $73 million from state family planning services, the increase in unplanned pregnancies ended up costing $230 million in additional Medicaid burdens, according to the nonpartisan state Legislative Budget Board. The other result was more unintended pregnancies and, presumably, more abortions. Other states are considering similar measures.

As an added bonus, you’ll also reduce the number and rate of abortions, 90% of which are estimated to be for unintended pregnancies. And you’ll reduce the number of unwed mothers (if you happen to think this is a number that should be reduced), who carry 70% of unplanned pregnancies.

That’s why all these arguments about how horrible it is for anyone to suggest taxpayer funding for birth control are fundamentally dishonest. The people making those arguments aren’t really against abortion, they’re against a woman’s right to have any control at all over their own reproduction at any level because, of course, that’s God’s job.

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