Demanding that insurance cover for contraceptives makes sense to a majority of Americans, with the exception of the religious right who will lose talking points if fewer women experience unwanted pregnancies, and libertarians, who think paying for it will increase the cost of healthcare.
But first, let’s revisit the effect that the contraceptive coverage rule had on the election and Obama’s victory. We know from exit polls that Obama carried the women vote by a margin of 55% to 44%, but for unmarried women the margin was 67% to 31% for Obama. However, the margins were even larger in the 2008 election.
Based on polls that show wide support for the contraceptive law among Democrats (80%) and among Catholic women (62%), the effect of the law seem to be that it attracted back women voters who may have otherwise been unenthusiastic about Obama’s reelection given the struggling economy that affected them as it did all of us, but caused more hardship for single mothers.
An NBC article finds that unmarried women have solidified into a powerful voting force and their vote probably helped Obama win reelection.
One of the reasons for that is the birth control issue,” says American Association of University Women Policy Director Lisa Maatz. “Abortion — reasonable people can disagree on that and do. But the whole issue of access to birth control…is something that most women thought was a settled issue.”
Now to the reasons why free birth control makes social and economic sense.
A recent study finds that
offering women free birth control can reduce unplanned pregnancies — and send the abortion rate spiraling downward.
The social consequences of offering contraceptives for free are therefore clear. Now to the economic consequences.
Even though a woman who has income may be able to afford it, she may not do so if she is not dating or for other reasons that are of psychological nature. Offering the pill for free is an incentive to take it. Moreover, the above cited study finds that
First, a large majority of the women in the study were encouraged — and chose — to use intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and hormonal implants over more commonly used birth control pills.
Because birth control pills require strict adherence, and people forget to take them, that method fails about 8 percent of the time. IUDs and implants are over 99 percent effective.
Offering to pay for the more fail-proof but more expensive contraceptives ensures that women avoid unwanted pregnancies.
But here is the main economical argument to free birth control: A 2011 report finds that unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 Billion a year!
Nearly two-thirds of unintended pregnancies — roughly a million births — are publicly funded by Medicaid and other government programs, the report shows.
At the same time, the demand for abortions among low-income women has been on the rise since the recession. The abortion rate increased 18 percent among poor women between 2000 and 2008, according to another recent Guttmacher report, as a result of their inability to afford or access contraceptive services and their perceived inability to support a child.
The Guttmacher Institute estimates that every dollar invested in family planning saves state governments $3.74 in Medicaid costs and pregnancy related care.
What that means is that both insurance companies as well as the government will save billions in pregnancy related costs by offering free birth control.