October 16, 2012 — "Both behavioral economics and recent empirical research help explain why access to long-acting, reliable, safe and reversible methods of contraception should be considered a public health priority," Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, writes in the New York Times' "Economix."
"[U]nintended pregnancies -- which account for about half of all pregnancies -- have huge economic consequences for women's employment, family welfare, public spending and children's health," Folbre writes. She cites a recent Guttmacher Institute study that found the most frequently cited reason women said they used contraception was that they could not provide for a child. Guttmacher also has estimated that unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers about $11 billion annually, Folbre notes.
Growing evidence suggests that making highly effective, long-acting reversible contraceptives including intrauterine devices and hormonal implants "more economically accessible reduces abortions and unwanted births," Folbre continues. For example, a recent study found a "clinically and statistically significant reduction in abortion rates, repeat abortions and teenage birth rates" when women gained no-cost access to long-acting birth control methods, she notes.
Conservatives "typically embrace cost-benefit analysis. But they seem reluctant to accept its application to the impact of contraceptive access on public health," Folbre writes, noting that conservatives have supported cuts to family planning programs at the federal and state levels (Folbre, "Economix," New York Times, 10/15).