Why Family Planning, Why Now?
VIA NFPRHA National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
Before we delve too deeply into the misguided hatred of all things contraceptive, let's take a moment to clear up some of the myths they have perpetuated this week about the provision they lobbied so hard to destroy.
What Does the Expanded Eligibility for Medicaid-Funded Family Planning Services Mean, Anyway?
Right now, Medicaid -- the government's way of paying for health care for low-income women and men -- provides funding for pregnancy-related care for women whose incomes are up to a certain percentage of the federal poverty level (roughly $ 17,600 for a family of three). The provision that was stripped out of the House bill would have allowed states to provide family planning services to anyone who, based on their income, would be eligible for pregnancy-related care under Medicaid. In other words, if you would qualify for pregnancy-related care under Medicaid, you would also qualify to access family planning services, including contraceptives, if you do not wish to become pregnant.
Why Is Family Planning Important?
Family planning services -- counseling, contraception, sex education and preventive health services -- are a critical element of basic health care that helps women and men make socially responsible decisions and build strong families. Contraception is basic health care for women throughout much of their lives -- an average woman who wants two children will spend five years pregnant or trying to get pregnant and roughly 30 years trying to prevent pregnancy. Publicly supported family planning services help to prevent at least 1.4 million unintended pregnancies every year, thus reducing the need for abortion.
Why Is Medicaid Coverage of Family Planning a Good Thing?
Bottom line: Medicaid coverage of family planning is good health care policy that saves the government money. That's right, SAVES money. According to the Guttmacher Institute, every $1 spent on publicly funded family planning saves more than $4 in state and federal dollars. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) evaluation of the House stimulus bill found that the Medicaid family planning expansion provision would have saved the federal government $200 million over 5 years and an astonishing $700 million over 10 years. These numbers do not even include the substantial savings state governments also realize, all while providing essential health care to millions who would otherwise have no access to care.
Why Is Legislation Necessary?
So Why All the Controversy?
This attack on contraception is just the latest in a long line of attacks on family planning. Let there be no doubt that the War on Contraception is alive and well in America, and there are no signs of it easing up any time soon. So what should our next step be? Should we continue to try and placate a small yet vocal minority who refuses to understand that family planning saves money, reduces unintended pregnancies and is critical health care for women? Or should we chart a new and bolder course, one that places the needs of women above the rhetoric and the attempts at compromise.
I say yes, the time has come for Congress and the Administration to do what they know to be right. We must increase federal funding for family planning, starting with passing legislation expanding eligibility for Medicaid-funded family planning services, and we must do it today.