When I was a college student, almost all birth control was inaccessible to me. Pills could run anywhere from $15-$50 a month, money I didn’t have when I was scraping together my minimum wage earnings for tuition, books and rent. Long-term methods like IUDs and implants carried an upfront cost of $500-$1,000 — money I definitely didn’t have. There was a Planned Parenthood in my city, but it was a 20-minute drive away, and I had no car in a town with inadequate public transportation. I was forced to rely on free condoms from the student health center, even though I was never quite comfortable with the fact that they left open a 2 percent chance of pregnancy. And my story is far from unique.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 49 percent of all pregnancies are unintended, and those happen because “multiple barriers prevent women from obtaining contraceptives or using them effectively and consistently,” the ACOG found in a 2015 study. The group has been pushing for universal, free access to birth control for all women, and for good reason — a new study commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and conducted by Child Trends, an independent nonprofit research organization that specializes in child health and development, found that if all women ages 15-39 who were not trying to get pregnant used birth control methods offered at Planned Parenthood, the unintended pregnancy rate would drop 64 percent, the unintended birth rate would drop 63 percent and abortions would be cut by a staggering 67 percent.
What’s more, that kind of universal access to Planned Parenthood’s services would save $12 billion in public health care costs each year, which includes a 50 percent reduction in public spending related to unintended pregnancies.
This is as Planned Parenthood is fighting to retain its federal funding, facing demands by the Trump administration that it stop providing abortion services altogether in order to keep its funding, even though it is literally illegal to use federal tax dollars to fund abortion services. Instead, those federal dollars allow Planned Parenthood to accept Medicaid and provide Title X care — the federal family planning program. Planned Parenthood says that close to 60 percent of its patients rely on federal funding to receive care through the organization.
“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,” women’s health policy expert and senior fellow for the Center for American Progress Jamila Taylor told Yahoo. “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 added that 70 percent of Americans support Roe V. Wade and think that abortions should remain legal in the U.S., so “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 continued, “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.”