The United States offers some of the world’s best healthcare with the most advanced technologies and medical advances. The problem is that our country does not offer some of those services to an awful lot of its residents.
In its October 2012 report, “The State of Reproductive Health and Rights: 50 State Report Card,” the Population Institute claims that reproductive health in the United States gets an overall grade of C-. Population Institute’s mission is to “promote voluntary family planning and reproductive health services and increase awareness of the social, economic, and environmental consequences of rapid population growth.”
It used nine criteria to evaluate each state’s reproductive health policies. Thirty percent of the grade is based on effectiveness measures including the rates of teen pregnancy and unintended pregnancy.
Another 30 percent is based on the affordability of family planning services under each state’s Medicaid rules, insurance coverage of contraception, and funding of family planning clinics serving low-income families.
The institute allotted 20 percent of the score to pregnancy prevention efforts. These include required comprehensive school sex education and access to emergency contraception.
The remaining 20 percent of the grade was based on access to family planning clinics, including an evaluation of abortion restrictions, and legislation that guarantees clinic access for clients. We feel it’s important to keep in mind that providing efficient family planning leads to fewer abortions; an objective that both anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates have in common. After all, no one in their right mind prefers abortion over not becoming pregnant in the first place.
It is astonishing, therefore, that so many states with so-called conservative majorities have such poor family planning records. The states that received an F in the report are, in alphabetical order, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tennessee. The states with a grade of A are the contiguous states on the Pacific Coast: California, Oregon, and Washington (the only state with an A+). It must be the water.
Population Institute’s president, Robert Walker, put the composite C- grade in perspective. “The U.S. as a whole performs poorly compared to most other developed countries on the rates of teenage pregnancy and unintended pregnancies,” he said. “Voters who care about reproductive health and rights need to know how their state ranks vis-à-vis other states.”
Walker pointed out that while the United States has made considerable progress over the last 40 years, it has a relatively high rate of unintended pregnancies, including those among teens. So while the rates of unplanned pregnancy are unacceptably high, political pressure seeks to put family planning clinics out of business in many states.
This is an almost surefire formula for rising abortion and/or unwanted-birth rates. “While opposition to abortion is driving these political assaults, putting family planning clinics out of business will only increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and, as a consequence, the number of abortions being performed,” said Walker.
With all the pressure in Congress to balance the US budget by reducing entitlements, especially for the poor—and with so many states trying to make abortion as rare as chrome car bumpers—we wonder who is going to pay for the care and education of all those unwanted babies.
In fact, it just might well be that the states with the most “conservative” family planning policies might become the ones asking Congress for more revenues to pay for all the entitlements their policies are engendering. Those states may one day come to the conclusion that there are “Enough of Us.”