Family Planning Equals Family Values
Ann L. Hanson
Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice
February 20. 2009
It took just a few hours for the uproar to begin. Shortly after the proposed Economic Stimulus package was released to the press, the attacks began. And, the very first issue that exploded in the news involved a provision that would allow states, thru Medicaid, to provide “family planning services and supplies” to low income women. The cost was estimated to be $550 million over the next 10 years and, when compared to the entire package, amounted to a small fraction of the total cost.
As I watched and listened to the news on TV and talk radio, reporting on this “family planning services and supplies” issue, I didn’t know whether to laugh (these people can’t say ‘contraception, condoms and stimulus package without choking or stumbling on their words) or cry (for all the women and men who desperately need information and access) or get angry (how dare you trivialize the importance of family planning and access – this is blatant sexism).
Despite trying to convince the naysayers that this provision would continue to SAVE money as public funds for family planning usually do, it didn’t take very long for Democrats in the House to drop this provision from the package.
Okay, perhaps expanding Medicaid eligibility for family planning services to 2.3 million additional low-income women didn’t belong in the Economic Stimulus package. I sort of get this. But, after enduring eight years of a congress and administration that over-looked or looked down upon reproductive health and access for ALL people, I can see why the waters were tested by a group of legislators who believe in access to reproductive health care – for all people, not just those who can afford the access to information and services.
Family planning accessibility and funding is important and is something we should not trivialize or mock. The overwhelming majority of women in the United States use a method of contraception during their reproductive years. The average woman who wants two children will spend five years trying to become or be pregnant and over 20 years trying to avoid pregnancy. Of primary importance in allowing women to affirm their whole selves and giving them control over their bodies, thus their future, is holistic, medically-accurate sexuality education – and, yes, access to affordable contraception and family planning.
Policies that value family planning make financial sense. Teen childbearing costs our country $9.1 billion annually (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy) for social services and lost tax revenue. Prevention of unintended pregnancies and concentrating on reproductive health would allow women to become more educated and thus boost our nation’s economy.
Failure to provide accessibility to basic reproductive health care makes no sense to me. And, at a minimum, it smacks of racism and classism
So, this proposal was thumped out of the Economic Stimulus package. I’m hoping that this disappointment will be followed by major support for women’s health, including reproductive care.
Not only does this make economic sense, it is the right thing to do.