July 15, 2015 — In the New York Times' "Room for Debate," several experts weighed in on whether government should provide birth control to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate.
The commentators included Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute; Bianca Brooks, a student at Columbia University and a former journalist for Youth Radio in Oakland, Calif.; Kinsey Hasstedt, a public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute; Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund; and Melissa Gilliam, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics, and director of the Fellowship in Family Planning at the University of Chicago.
The discussion included commentary from supporters and opponents of publicly funded family planning services. Among supporters, many experts noted that contraception empowers women to make choices about when to have children. Further, they noted the benefits that contraceptive access has for women and infants' health, as well as for fiscal policy.
For example, Hasstedt writes that "the public investment in family planning ... leads to healthier mothers and babies, empowers women to finish their education or job training, and saves billions in taxpayer dollars." She notes that publicly supported family planning services in 2010 "resulted in a net savings to the federal and state governments of $13.6 billion -- $7 for every public dollar spent." Hasstedt calls on lawmakers to "adequately fun[d] Title X and implemen[t] the Affordable Care Act's [PL 111-148] Medicaid expansion in all states."
Meanwhile, Gilliam cites the success of a no-cost contraception program in Colorado, but notes that the program's success "was achieved with high-quality care." She writes, "It was implemented by compassionate clinicians with expertise in contraception and counseling, informed by the latest medical evidence and guidelines," adding that those "assets will be crucial to achieving the same success in other areas." However, she notes that "focusing on contraception does not obviate the need for equitable access to high-quality reproductive health care, including abortion services and prenatal care" ("Room for Debate," New York Times, 7/13).