Some Interesting Insights into Family Planning

In perusing the latest edition of The Reporter, Population Connection’s tri-annual magazine, we came across some interesting – and sometimes alarming – data.
As of September, 11 states have decided to ban funding for Planned Parenthood clinics through their Medicaid and Title X (10) funding. Title X Family Planning clinics have ensured access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others.
Planned Parenthood is fighting these policies based on the assertion that that they are unlawful. In the meantime, the clinics are forced to deny low-income patients services that federal law dictates should be covered by any qualified provider the patient chooses.
“This attack on access to reproductive health care is a move by anti-choice policymakers to deny funding to any organization that provides or counsels on abortion services in the case of rape, incest, and threat to a woman’s life,” says Population Connection.
Planned Parenthood’s budget is overwhelmingly dedicated to providing birth control, cancer screenings and prenatal care. Only three percent of its budget involves abortion.
Federal judges in Kansas and Indiana have granted temporary injunctions to Planned Parenthood affiliates in those states, thereby precluding those states from withholding funding.

Intrauterine contraceptive devices - copper (l) and hormonal (r) Photo:

As you probably are aware, the Catholic Church prohibits contraception. What surprised us is that – according to the Guttmacher Institute, which seeks to advance sexual and reproductive health through research, policy analysis and public education – 68 percent of those who identify themselves as Catholic use so-called modern contraceptive techniques. Only two percent stick to methods mandated by the Church. These methods include abstinence, temperature rhythm, and cervical mucus tests.
Almost three out of four Protestants, including Evangelicals, use such contraception, with more than 40 percent of Evangelicals – both men and women – using sterilization. So among all Western Christian faiths, the incidence of modern contraceptive techniques is fairly uniform.

So where is all this leading? The birth rate in the United States is dipping, probably with the putrid state of our economy as the primary cause. Preliminary reports indicate there were about four million births in the country in 2010. That’s a drop of three percent since the previous year and a drop of seven percent since the all-time high of 4.3 million in 2007. There was only one group that showed an increase in births for 2010: women over 40. The link may be that part of the drop in birthrate is that women may be waiting for later in life to procreate. Congrats to Michelle Duggar (number 20 on the way despite she and fetus 19 almost biting the dust during the pregnancy) and to Sarah Palin, whose son Trig was born with Down syndrome.

To us, one of the most irresponsible types of pregnancies is the unintended kind. According to studies by both the Guttmacher Institute and the Brookings Institution – an independent, research-oriented think tank – unintended pregnancies cost American taxpayers $11 billion per year. Such births are most likely to qualify for Medicaid benefits and State Health Insurance Programs (S-CHIP). In 2006, 64 percent of the 1.6 million births from unintended pregnancies were publicly funded, compared with 35 percent of births from planned pregnancies.
A publicly funded birth, on average, costs almost $12,000. This amount does not reflect the governmental costs of welfare benefits. In previous columns and in our upcoming book we have expressed our criticisms of the government’s role in promoting childbirth.

Here are some factoids that really surprised us. The intrauterine device (IUD) method of birth control seems to be making a comeback. While only 5.5 percent of women use it, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, IUDs are among the most reliable forms of birth control. Less than one percent of women who use the copper IUD become pregnant within one year. Those who use hormonal implants have a yearly pregnancy rate of 1/20 of a percent.
Among those who use “the pill,” nine percent get pregnant, largely because of incorrect or inconsistent use. With almost half of U.S. pregnancies being unintended (yikes!) long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) – including IUDs – are the most effective and efficient. They do not, however, protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
According to The Reporter, “Common barriers to the use of LARC are high initial cost; difficulty finding a provider who carries and knows how to insert the method; lack of knowledge about the method; and a distrust in the method due to injuries and infections caused by the first IUD, the Dalkon Shield, in the early 1970s.”

We believe federal and state governments should provide contraception to those who cannot afford it. The long-term benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the short-term costs. The paybacks to our society and the world are manifold. In this way, public largess will save money, grief and the demands we make upon our planet.


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