In 2008, unplanned pregnancies cost the U.S. $12.5 billion. (Photo: Getty Images)
Birth control: You know it can help clear up your skin, keep the blues at bay, and, of course, help prevent unplanned pregnancies. But here’s a benefit that’s hugely important, yet maybe not as obvious: Financial security.
A new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports even greater access to contraception, saying that its benefits “include improved health and well-being, reduced global maternal mortality, health benefits of pregnancy spacing for maternal and child health, female engagement in the work force, and economic self-sufficiency for women.” Right now, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned — a rate higher than almost any other developed country, the ACOG notes. And the rate is even higher for low-income women.
In addition to the “human costs” of unplanned pregnancies — decisions regarding termination of pregnancy or adoption, or the unanticipated economic hardship of having a child — there are also great fiscal costs to society, the ACOG says: In 2008, unplanned pregnancies cost the U.S. $12.5 billion. Yet, research shows that “each dollar spent on publicly funded contraceptive services saves the U.S. health care system nearly $6.”
“One of the very important reasons the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists argue for better access to birth control is because when women have access to birth control, they have access to opportunity — they are more likely to go to college, participate in the workforce, and have an increased earning potential,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “If policy makers are serious about helping families across America succeed economically, they have to support comprehensive access to affordable birth control.”
Read on for more associations between birth control and financial security:
There’s a link between birth control availability and the number of women in the workforce.
A 2002 Harvard study found that four out of five sexually active women are on birth control, and that there is a direct correlation between the availability of birth control and women’s presence in the workforce. In fact, access to birth control is associated with increased educational opportunities, resulting in greater skilled employment opportunities for women.
In 2006, University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey wrote in a paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics that the advent of oral contraceptives and providing women with “early access” to them (that is, before age 21) “reduced the cost of delaying pregnancy in order to make career investments.” That’s because contraceptives enable young women to stay in the labor market and invest in their careers, while also being sexually active without risking pregnancy.
Birth control access is associated with higher wages for women.
Bailey’s study also found that women with early access to birth control made 8 percent more a year, compared with those without that early access.
Additionally, the implications of the Affordable Care Act now mean that women take home more of their salary, as they no longer need to worry about monthly co-pays for the Pill or the high price tag for the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD), which can cost more than $1,000 out of pocket.
Birth control increases the likelihood of a woman going to college.
A 2013 report by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that not only does access to birth control — and a woman delaying having children — increase the chances that a woman will pursue a college degree, but birth control early access also has made it more likely for women to be admitted to college. “[D]oors opened to women who could access both contraceptives and higher education; they became seen — for instance, by admissions officials — as more likely than women without contraceptive access to follow through with their educational pursuits,” the report said.
A study from the University of Michigan published in 2011 showed that even small increases in the cost of birth control are associated with a statistically significant reduction in its use by sexually active college-age women. And according to Bailey’s study, among college-age women, 20 percent more women with early access to birth control attend college compared with peers without access to contraception in late adolescence.
Birth control helps women support themselves financially.
In 2012, another study by the Guttmacher Institute asked women why they chose to use birth control. Some of the most common responses included the ability to take better care of themselves or their families, support themselves financially, complete their education, and keep or get a job.
Notable, too, is that “[t]he single most frequently cited reason for using contraception was that women could not afford to take care of a baby at that time (65%),” according to the study. Nearly one in four women reported an unemployed partner, “which was a very important reason for their contraceptive use.”
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