Contraceptive Economics

October 18, 2012 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, United States, Daily Email Recap

Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, penned the following blog. There are numerous embedded hyper-links in the original, so if you are interested, I suggest you click through to read.

Contraceptive Economics
See: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/contraceptive-economics/

Americans passionately disagree about both the biology and the morality of contraception. Even many who skillfully practice what Thomas Robert Malthus termed the “improper arts” consider it a personal and, ideally, completely private choice.

But private choices are constrained by public policies. Both behavioral economics and recent empirical research help explain why access to long-acting, reliable, safe and reversible methods of contraception should be considered a public health priority.

Recent news coverage shows a pathological level of misinformation in some quarters, embodied in the assertion by Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee in Missouri, that “legitimate” rape victims could never become pregnant against their will. On a more amusing note, a group of Catholic nuns in Ohio released a video contending that women who use contraceptives are less sexually attractive to men (feminist bloggers at Jezebel had a good time with this one).

Conservatives with an accurate grasp of biology are more likely to use a strategy of trivialization. The Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan labels Sandra Fluke, Georgetown law student, as a “ninny” for suggesting that insurance coverage of contraception is a serious issue. Carrie Lukas, writing for National Review Online, derides the Democrats’ “cartoonish appeal to women to vote based on their ‘lady parts.'”

A more polite and perhaps more effective approach is simple avoidance. Ann Romney, asked whether she believed that employer-provided health insurance should be required to cover birth control, replied: “You’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about. This election is going to be about the economy and jobs.”

But unintended pregnancies – which account for about half of all pregnancies – have huge economic consequences for women’s employment, family welfare, public spending and children’s health. In a recent Guttmacher Institute study of women at 22 family planning clinics in 13 states, the most frequently cited reason given for using contraception was inability to take care of a baby at the time.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that unintended pregnancy costs American taxpayers roughly $11 billion each year.

 

To read the full article, please click here: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/contraceptive-economics/


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