Since being elected President of the United States, Donald Trump has made clear that one of his top priorities is to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Among a host of other changes, insurance providers would cease to be forced to provide contraception to women or cover pregnant women. Historically, conservatives have rebuked the coverage of birth control and the morning-after pill under religious freedom clauses, paralleling them to abortion and citing that businesses with conservative religious beliefs should not be required to cover contraception.
Although for conservative voters, freedom of religion arguments hold merit, this same audience is one which historically lauds economic drive, in which case the repeal of contraceptive coverage might be a mistake. The U.S. economy benefits from factors such as low poverty rates which further indicate a strong middle class, expansive and equal education which is an expensive investment and increases competitive fields, and high employment rates. Since birth control was legalized and made available in the sixties, we have been shown a host of evidence proving that providing women with contraception has a positive impact on these effects, leading to a better society and a better economy, and by allowing contraception to be paid for, we could even increase these effects.
Birth control costs women up to $600 per year, and according to a study by Penn, in 2013, the ACA “saved U.S. women more than $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket expenses for birth control pills”. This amount of money is significant in many women’s lives, and those who are unable to access reliable contraception due to cost, if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, are more likely to be raising the child in a lower-class area. This means they will be unable to provide sufficient care for the child (education, healthcare, safety) and thus the cycle will repeat itself. A study from Oxford pointed out that, “Ultimately, over 40% of children born to parents in the lowest quintile of family income remain in that income quintile as adults”. This would mean a growing population of children and families living in poverty in the United States, unable to access proper education to contribute adequately to the type of competitive workforce which the United States aims for. This poverty rate weakens the middle class and costs the U.S. government millions per year due to health care, lack of efficiency, and criminal expenses.
Without reliable contraception, women who are unable to afford the cost of the pill or an IUD will, in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, also be less likely to go onto higher education or pursue competitive careers. In The Power of the Pill, a study published in 2002, Katz and Goldin put forth that as the pill was made available in the 60s and 70s, it opened up more doors for women to avoid early marriage (previously common due to obvious consequences of sex) and instead pursue and invest in further education in higher level fields, particularly law and medicine. Not only are women saving money with publicly funded birth control, but by being provided a method to control when and with who they start a family, we have a larger population contributing to our society. A Planned Parenthood study reports that “Fully one-third of the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to oral contraceptives.”
By providing women contraception, we are encouraging the participation of half of society as members of the workforce. Look at the statistics of the number women who were being provided contraception under ACA:
“Publicly funded family planning providers served 7.8 million women in 2014, helping prevent nearly two million unintended pregnancies. Of those pregnancies, an estimated 914,000 would have resulted in unplanned births and 678,000 in abortions. Without publicly funded contraceptive services, the U.S. rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion would have each been 68% higher, and the teen pregnancy rate would have been 73% higher.”(Guttmacher Research Center)
Already, Slate highlighted a CDC study in 2010 which showed that the most conservative states in the United States (Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, etc.) also have the highest teen pregnancy rates. These higher unplanned birth rates and teen pregnancy rates are not only disastrous in a social context, but this means a massive number of women leaving the workforce, and unprepared financially to raise a child who will have the support and financial backing to one day enter higher education. This is because not only are women unable to access means to contraception but since 2011, 162 abortion providers have closed. This forces women to either risk their lives attempting a back-alley abortion, or cease their goals to support a child. But by providing funded birth control, women will have the option to delay pregnancy and instead invest in their career.