Many conservatives are speaking out against the public funding of birth control for American men and women stating that it will not decrease abortion, it will increase uncommitted sexual encounters, it is not preventative medicine, and it will prevent a generation of children amongst other things. EKRHP was recently asked on our Facebook page to respond to an NPR story on the topic.
Let’s begin by looking at Sandy Rios (conservative commentator) comments on Fox News. If you listen to the audio version of the story on the NPR website, you will hear more of her comment than what is printed. She says, “We have $14 trillion in debt, and now we’re going to cover birth control, breast-pumps, counseling for abused… Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well? I think that would be a good idea.” What should be asked to Ms. Rios is – Since when have you spoken with a newly married woman who is finishing her college education and would like to wait to begin her family at a time when she feels prepared to focus more deeply on the demands of motherhood? Since when have you spoken with a mother who breastfeeds her baby (the healthiest choice for both mother and baby) and is about to go back to work and truly needs a quality breast-pump in order to continue breastfeeding? Since when have you spoken to an abused woman who is in desperate need of professional counseling as she tries to get back into a healthy environment for herself and her children? Now, answer this… How in any confidence can you equate these true daily needs of American women with frivolous luxuries such as manicures and pedicures? Are those on either side of the political spectrum who speaks in such terms concerned at all about the well-being of America’s women and children?
Consider Rios statements with others in the story like Marjorie Dannenfelser, of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “As the money (for family planning) goes up, so do the number of abortions,” she said. “We have not seen a reduction in abortions since the full funding of family planning. We have seen an escalation.”
If we only take Kentucky into consideration, here is the reality – Without publicly-funded family planning services in Kentucky, the state’s unintended pregnancy rate would be 67% higher, and the abortion rate 163% higher . In 2008, contraceptive services provided at Title X–supported (Title X is the current federal program that provides for family planning services and supplies through provision of low-cost and free contraceptive services and supplies.) centers in Kentucky helped women avoid 21,500 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 9,600 births and 9,000 abortions . Can we imagine if women had universal access to reliable forms of birth control that they could maintain consistent use of, how many abortions and unintended pregnancies could be prevented.
Greater than 50% of Kentucky’s births are currently paid for through state Medicaid coverage. Kentucky being one of 11 states where this is the case. While it is not appropriate to discourage lower income women from creating the families that they want to have (women have the right to parent if they so desire and it is elitest as well as class discrimination to deny that right), if we were to provide more publicly funded birth control those women who would like to prevent pregnancies could do so resulting in long term, lower cost to state funded insurance.
Also, in planning pregnancies, women can achieve healthier outcomes.
Every woman should be thinking about her health whether or not she is planning pregnancy. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are not planned. Unplanned pregnancies are at greater risk of preterm birth and low birth weightbabies. Another reason is that, despite important advances in medicine and prenatal care, about 1 in 8 babies is born too early. Researchers are trying to find out why and how to prevent preterm birth. But experts agree that women need to be healthier before becoming pregnant. By taking action on health issues and risks before pregnancy, you can prevent problems that might affect you or your baby later. – Women’s Health.gov
Kentucky’s rate of pre-term birth is 14% and low birth weight is 9%, some of the higher percentages in the country. Helping women achieve healthier pregnancies will also lower the costs of state funded health care. Not only this, but it increases the health of the nation’s women and children.
It is not an easy thing to talk about these issues. Access to information needed to make informed decisions is key, and something that many women are lacking. How many of you know how to prevent pregnancies while still being sexually active without using birth control? How many of you are aware of how your birth control works in your body? Do you know how reliable the different methods are?
Are we making any progress toward a wider vision of health in this country if we deny people the choices that can help them become healthier? We cannot live everyone’s life for them. It is none of our business the choices the strangers we pass on the street make in their bedroom. Nor, can we be the judge of everyone’s individual situation against any kind of standards we personally hold for our own life. The conservatives are missing every important point on this issue.
 Cohen SA, The numbers tell the story: the reach and impact of Title X, Guttmacher Policy Review, 2011, 14(2):20–23. As cited in State Facts About Title X and Family Planning: Kentucky, available online at http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/title-X/KY.html#13
 Frost JJ, Henshaw SK and Sonfield A, Contraceptive Needs and Services, National and State Data, 2008 Update, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2010.