Try as our legislators might to scare already-scared women into forgoing a safe, legal route of terminating an unwanted pregnancy, Frankfort’s Fetus Police may perpetually fail in their quest to relegate abortions into the commonwealth’s hollers and back alleys … but they have managed to succeed at one thing, at least: Racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in publicly subsidized child care costs.
New research conducted by the Guttenmacher Institute, a research and policy analysis think tank focused on reproductive health, reveals that two-thirds of births resulting from unwanted pregnancies are publicly funded because, well, the free market doesn’t want them, which kind of undercuts the arguments made by people like Republican death-budget engineers Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who believe that by cutting the social safety net we actually wind up saving money. This is like thinking you’re better prepared to survive jumping out of an airplane holding a cinder block instead of wearing a parachute.
Adam Sonfield, the author of the Guttenmacher report, explains their faulty logic thusly:
At a time when policymakers everywhere are looking for ways to cut costs under Medicaid, these findings point clearly to a way to achieve that goal by expanding access to health care, not cutting it. Investing in publicly funded family planning to help women avoid unintended pregnancy has a proven track record: In the absence of the services provided at publicly funded family planning centers, the costs of unintended pregnancy would be 60% higher than they are today.
According to the report (PDF), the percentage of taxpayer funded unintended births in Kentucky is a staggering 78 percent, and in 2006 alone cost taxpayers in the commonwealth $248 million.
Nationwide, the total amount of public costs associated with unintended births, including lost savings as a result of not helping women avoid giving birth to babies they do not want in the first place, is estimated at $11.1 billion.
Furthermore, another recent study (PDF) conducted by the Brookings Institution found that “the estimates of the cost to taxpayers of providing medical services to women who experience unintended pregnancies and to the infants who are born as a result of such pregnancies range between $9.6 and $12.6 billion per year, and average $11.3 billion.”
If women were given better access to, say, an organization like Planned Parenthood, which deals not just with abortions but sex education and contraception that faux-debt hawk Tea Partiers don’t understand, U.S. taxpayers would actually save an estimated average of $5.6 billion annually.
Adam Thomas, one of the authors of the Brookings study, hammers the point home:
Like Sonfield and colleagues, we find that the potential public savings from preventing unintended pregnancy are enormous. Our results suggest that if unintended pregnancies could be eliminated altogether, the resulting savings on taxpayer-financed medical care alone would approach the amount that the federal government spends on Head Start each year. Policymakers should protect and even increase investments in such proven cost-saving strategies as publicly subsidized family planning services and evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.
If you still don’t get it by now, The Bobs have a question for you: