Better Birth Control Access Could Drop Abortion Rate 67%, Save $12 Billion

A new study shows that widely available contraception lowers abortion rates.(Photo: Getty Images)
A new study shows that widely available contraception lowers abortion rates. (Photo: Getty Images)

A just-released study commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and conducted by researchers at Child Trends, an independent nonprofit research organization that specializes in child health and development, found that if the full range of contraception options available to women through Planned Parenthood health centers were used by all U.S. women ages 15 to 39 who were not seeking pregnancy, the unintended-pregnancy rate would be reduced by 64 percent, the unintended-birth rate would decrease by 63 percent, and the abortion rate would drop by a staggering 67 percent.

All of this, researchers found, would translate into $12 billion in public health care cost savings annually, reducing the public costs of unintended pregnancy by half.

The findings are all the more staggering on the heels of this weeks news that the Trump administration made an informal proposal to Planned Parenthood that their place as a provider of Medicaid and Title X — the federal family planning program — services could remain intact if the reproductive and sexual health care provider would stop providing abortion care. Further complicating the issue is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement bill finally introduced by House Republicans last night, which would both roll back Medicaid expansion and also cut off all funding to Planned Parenthood for a year, a one-two punch to those who rely on Planned Parenthood as a safety-net provider for their reproductive health care and family planning.

Jamila Taylor, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress (CAP) who is an expert on women’s health care policy, tells Yahoo Beauty, “If you take into account the fact that Planned Parenthood serves about 2.5 million people each year with essential health services and that many of those folks are on Medicaid or accessing services through Title X, that’s extremely problematic.”

According to Planned Parenthood, close to 60 percent of their patients participate in Medicaid or Title X.

Taylor continues, “When you consider the fact that for these same patients, Planned Parenthood often serves as the single access point for their health care, a restriction like this is only going to further disservice disadvantaged communities.”

Taylor also notes that given the fact that 70 percent of the American public believes that Roe v. Wade should be maintained and that abortion should remain safe and legal in the United States, “asking Planned Parenthood or any other provider that may be receiving federal funding to not provide this service is just placing barriers on important health care.”

She continues, “Based on the profile of what we know about the folks Planned Parenthood serves, slashing their funding from the Medicaid program in particular is going to have a harmful effect on low-income people, people of color, and LGBT young people. These are communities that disproportionately rely on essential health care through Planned Parenthood. So, when we talk about stripping their funding, this isn’t about Planned Parenthood per se, but about taking away essential health coverage to these people.

“Politically, I know everyone is honing in on Planned Parenthood, but at the end of the day, this is just going to harm the patients who need health care the most — patients who rely on Planned Parenthood,” Taylor says. “These are groups that also experience health disparities and health inequities, and any efforts to restrict their health coverage will only exacerbate their health and well-being disparities.”

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. tells Yahoo Beauty, “While claiming to try to improve access to health care, Republicans couldn’t resist another opportunity to attack women by doing the complete opposite. Far from helping more people make their own health care choices, this bill defunds Planned Parenthood, denying millions of women access to preventative care, cancer screenings, and affordable contraception. Although abortion care is constitutionally protected, Republicans are using their opposition to it as an excuse to deny comprehensive health care to women. But this cannot just be about ideologies when lives are at stake, and we know the dangers facing women when these safe options are taken away.”

Audrey Sandusky, director of advocacy and communications for the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, agrees.

“In short, blocking Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program will erect insurmountable barriers to care. We are talking about people who already face enormous roadblocks in their lives, and if they can’t come to the family planning provider they know and trust and access confidential care, that means they can’t get that care. If you eliminate Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, you’re eliminating many women’s usual and sole source of health care,” Sandusky tells Yahoo Beauty.

Sandusky also notes that the safety-net family planning providers — those who provide family planning and other preventive health services through Medicaid and Title X — are “already doing more with less.”

“Our members are publicly funded family planning providers across the country,” Sandusky explains. “The reality is that they will soon be forced to do less with fewer and fewer resources. As a result, fewer women will receive the care they need. Undoubtedly, we will see an uptick in teen and unintended pregnancy and the abortion rate and STD incidences. And all that translates into higher costs across the entire health care system.”

Lila Rose, the founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, applauds the move to eliminate Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid and Title X provider, however.

She tells Yahoo Beauty that the bill introduced last night, and the reaction from pro-choice advocates to it, “shows where Planned Parenthood’s priorities lie that when they were confronted with the potential choice between receiving federal finds and committing abortions, they chose committing abortions. It’s ideological and financial.”

Planned Parenthood receives no federal funding for abortion care as a result of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents Medicaid from covering abortion services. All abortion care provided at Planned Parenthood is paid for by patients out of pocket. Federal funding is provided to Planned Parenthood only as a reimbursement for services rendered through Title X and Medicaid.

In a statement yesterday, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, “The White House proposal that Planned Parenthood stop providing abortion is the same demand opponents of women’s health have been pushing for decades, as a part of their long-standing effort to end women’s access to safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood has always stood strong against these attacks on our patients and their ability to access the full range of reproductive health care. We are glad that the White House understands that taking away the preventive care Planned Parenthood provides is deeply unpopular and would be a disaster for women’s health care. Planned Parenthood’s singular commitment is to the women and men who come to us for health care every day in communities across the country. We will always stand for women’s ability to make decisions about their health and lives, without interference from politicians in Washington, DC.”

And while Rose says that she thinks it’s “really tragic that we’ve poured half a billion dollars into Planned Parenthood in the name of people who are low-access or low-income since Planned Parenthood is not sufficient health care and federal money should be going to more qualified health centers like the 13,000 federally qualified health centers [FQHCs] across the country,” the data tells another story.

A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive and sexual health research and policy organization, found that Planned Parenthood health centers are simply better at providing family planning services than many of their peers. Planned Parenthood clinics were most likely to have shorter wait times compared with other types of providers, with an average wait time of just over a day for an initial appointment. Furthermore, while Planned Parenthood administers just 10 percent of all publicly funded family planning clinics, they serve 36 percent of all publicly funded family planning clients.

“I don’t think we can overstate the fact that millions of people rely on Planned Parenthood. It is the single access point for health care for many people, many of whom are on Medicaid,” Taylor says. “I think this is a huge mistake, especially coming off of President Trump’s Joint Session speech where he said he would invest in women’s health care. This is yet another example of how that’s a lie. It’s just false. You can say you’re going to invest in women’s health care but continue to chip away at women’s reproductive health and rights by restricting the health care they do have. It just doesn’t make sense. In doing that, you’re also putting women in situations where they are less productive and not able to thrive economically because they’re going to have to come out of their own pockets to pay these costs because of restrictions and efforts to defund a vital provider in their community.”

And Sandusky emphasizes, “Family planning and public health are continually linked. Contraception and other sexual health care services are a basic part of basic health care for women. And for every $1 spent on family planning, $7 is saved on federal funding. This is a tremendous return on investment when women and men are given the education and care they need to decide when and if they want to have a family. Title X and the entire family planning safety net is quintessential public health.”

“Planned Parenthood is a trusted family planning provider,” she continues. “Providers that are in the family planning system right now are the providers best suited to deliver this care, and to restrict the network that sees more than a third of patients in the safety net — you can’t expect to restrict the provider network that sees such a large patient proportion and expect other providers to be able to carry on with business as usual.”

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