Friday, January 30, 2009

The Economy and Family Planning

Working American families were dealt a blow this week when anti-choice Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) attacked a family planning proposal in the economic rescue package. This proposal could have saved taxpayer dollars and helped to make birth control more affordable for women hurt by job losses.

Current law allows women of reproductive age to become eligible for Medicaid coverage only after they become pregnant or if they have children who are enrolled in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). States that want to expand their Medicaid coverage to allow low-income women to access family planning services must first obtain a federal waiver.

The provision originally included in the stimulus package would have eliminated the waiver requirement, allowing states to directly access Medicaid funds for family planning services that do not involve abortion. Estimates show that every dollar of publicly funded family planning services saves $4 in state and federal dollars. And when the Congressional Budget Office looked at a very similar provision in 2007, it estimated that the federal savings would have totaled $200 million over five years, and $400 million over ten.

The savings comes from preventing unintended pregnancies through increased access to contraception, and through better prenatal and post-natal care. One in five infants born prematurely has ongoing health problems, and a recent Institute of Medicine report estimated that the economic cost of preterm births (including medical, educational, and lost productivity) was at least $26.2 billion in 2005.

Boehner’s attacks on birth control are a reminder that pro-choice electoral successes will not silence anti-choice politicians or guarantee success on issues important to women and their families. Despite our pro-choice gains in the House and the Senate, anti-choice members still outnumber our pro-choice allies.
Our community must and will continue to move forward in improving women’s access to family planning. Although this legislation disappointingly will not deliver needed assistance to the states and families, there will be other opportunities to work with the Obama administration and pro-choice members of Congress to help make birth control more affordable in such a time of need.

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