Roughly one in four teen girls become pregnant at least once by age 20 and fully half of all pregnancies in the United States are reported by women themselves as unplanned. Not too good.

By posting some intemperate thoughts about sex, love, relationships, pregnancy, childbearing, the media, public policy, our dogs, and other topics, we hope to spark a two-way discussion about how best to bring down the high rates of teen and unplanned pregnancy in this country. And who knows…from time to time, we might even offer up a few cogent thoughts that will be helpful.

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Contraception, Federal Funding, Public Policy, Unplanned Pregnancy
February 25, 2015


Pop Quiz—which is more expensive, $239 or $12,770? No brainer right? That is the difference in cost between a year’s worth of publicly funded contraception for one woman vs. one Medicaid-funded birth. “Yikes!’ says anyone responsible for managing taxpayer dollars (or indeed anyone who correctly identified $12,770 as the much larger amount). So here’s another quiz question—if there was a program that could provide low cost contraception to taxpayers and prevent 1.1 million unplanned pregnancies and 363,000 abortions in one year, would you say that was a good investment? Still not sure? What if I told you that preventing those unplanned pregnancies by providing low income women with contraception saved at least $6 for every $1 spent? Look, if someone told me I could get $6 for every dollar I invested I’d be all about it! Then there’s the fact that research shows when cost is removed as a barrier, and women receive high quality contraceptive care, declines in unplanned pregnancy and abortion are dramatic.

What I described above is exactly what the Title X Family Planning Program does: provides contraception to low income women and men, most of whom make less than 100% of the federal poverty level. In 2014 that was an annual pre-tax income of $11,770 for an individual and $24,250 for a family of four, lest anyone think we’re talking about folks who should just go out and buy their own contraception.

What does the government get in return for that investment? Well, setting aside the fact that planned pregnancies result in healthier and wealthier women, children, and families, Title X saves the government a boatload of money. Many of the women who receive services through Title X live below the poverty line (a smaller number live just above it) and yet they do not qualify for Medicaid. However, many of these same women would qualify if they were to become pregnant. So, it’s in everyone’s interest to help women of all income levels use the most effective methods of contraception in order to avoid unplanned pregnancy, right? Right, say Americans (we conducted a poll, I didn’t just make that up).

So, what would you guess the price tag is for a program like Title X that delivers so much? Well, right now it’s only $286.5 million. Not a lot, right? Right. And honestly, not enough. Title X used to be funded at $317.5 million, and the $31 million cut has resulted in over 600,000 fewer patients being served. What happens when those women get pregnant? Remember my first numeric comparison? Yup, $12,770—and that’s just for labor, delivery, and the first year of infant care alone. Forget the many other social programs that may be needed to support mother and child beyond that.

So here’s the final question of the quiz—if a program costs very little to taxpayers, saves so much by reducing unplanned pregnancy and abortion, and saves taxpayer dollars,   would you ideally fund it a higher level, or would you eliminate it? 

No brainer again, right? Right. Maybe share this quiz with your members of Congress. 

Authored by: Rachel Fey

Rachel Fey is the Director of Public Policy at The National Campaign. Rachel is responsible for the organization’s health policy work, including implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid family planning, and the Title X Family Planning Program. She also works on health disparities and budget and appropriations, where she focuses on funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs and public funding for family planning.

Prior to joining The National Campaign, Rachel was Manager of Government Relations at the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) where she worked on health care reform and the Medicaid and Title X Family Planning programs. She has years of experience working in the field of nonprofit reproductive health, including for the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs. Ms. Fey holds a BA in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University.

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Bill received his degree in Communications at American University and resides in Kensington, Maryland with his wife, Carol. His perfect 21-year-old son, Harrison The Boy Wonder, is a junior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD to its friends). 

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