Population Matters

The Unintended Consequences of the War on Women

July 30th, 2013

Wars as a rule are not exercises in critical thinking.  Still, legislators who are busy waging an unrelenting attack on women and their reproductive health should take time to read the latest Guttmacher Report, “Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2010”.  They might discover that their war on abortion and family planning is creating some collateral damage.

State legislators in recent months have been working overtime in their effort to restrict a woman’s access to abortion services. Some states have set a limit on how late in a pregnancy a woman can get an abortion; other states have enacted TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) that are designed to put clinics out of business by enacting burdensome laws that single out abortion providers from other medical service providers. The TRAP laws are not just stopping women from accessing abortion services; they are also restricting a woman’s access to pap smears, cancer screenings, and birth control.  At the same time several states have been slashing funding for family planning services, while Congress has been trimming Title X, the federal program that funds family planning services for low-income households.

One of the unintended consequences of these assaults on family planning and reproductive services is an increase in unplanned pregnancies…and the demand for abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute report in 2010 8.9 million women received publicly funded contraceptives, and they helped prevent 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 1.1 million unplanned births and 760,000 abortions. The report estimates that without publicly funded contraceptive services the national levels of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion among all women would be 66% higher overall and 73% higher among teens.

That’s not the end of the collateral damage that results from cutting family planning services.  Guttmacher’s report also shows how these cuts actually increase government spending. Publicly-funded family planning services in 2010 produced savings of $10.5 billion.  The return on investment for federal and state governments?  A whopping $5.68 for every $1 spent on family planning services.  

Any way you look at it, the War on Women is producing a lot of unintended casualties.   Maybe it is time for these legislators to call a retreat.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

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