Did anyone else get furious after watching Ann Romney’s interview with KWQC-TV in Davenport, Iowa? Speaking via satellite, she said, in responding to questions about marriage equality, birth control and abortion that “You’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about. This election is going to be about the economy and jobs.”
Now, I know she isn’t the presidential candidate but she isn’t alone in her refusal to recognize the economic costs of the War on Women. Romney himself has already signaled his intent to chip away at access to birth control, vowing to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate Title X, the federal family planning program that provides family planning and screenings for breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and the like for five million women. Romney had also pledged to restore the so-called “conscience clause” allowing anyone in the health care delivery chain, like a clerk in a pharmacy, the right to refuse to sell contraceptives. Romney has also endorsed the Blunt-Rubio Amendment, which would have allowed any employer to claim a “moral objection” and exclude potentially millions of women from getting birth control under their insurance coverage. Romney has assured the antiabortion right that he “absolutely” supports state and federal constitutional amendments defining life as beginning at conception.
It seems to have escaped the calculations of the Republican party is that all of these women’s health issues are also economic issues. Take a look at some of the numbers:
Contraception and Birth Control
In 2008 alone, contraceptive services helped to avert some 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions. Federal and state governments save on average $4.3 billion each year from publicly funded family planning services, while contraceptive use saves nearly $19 billion in direct medical costs each year. The National Business Group on Health reports that most of its 346 members include contraception in their plans because it saves money. Employers who cover birth control, at an average cost of about $39 per female employee per year, end up saving about $9,000 per female employee in any two-year period compared to those who don’t.
Furthermore, birth control is prescribed for many conditions other than contraception such as fibroids, endometriosis and menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding). Some forms of birth control can even lower a woman’s risk of uterine and ovarian cancers.
According to a study released by the National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies, unplanned pregnancies total $4 billion a year in direct medical costs alone. This includes only the costs that are associated with the births ($3.9 billion) and miscarriages ($266 million) that result from nearly 3 million unplanned pregnancies each year.
A study conducted by the Brookings Institution estimates that American taxpayers spend upwards of $12 billion each year to provide medical care for 1.25 million unintended pregnancies through programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This sum includes $251 million on fetal losses (which are commonly known as miscarriages); roughly $6 billion on births; and another $6 billion on infant medical care.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Pregnancy, even for seemingly healthy women, poses serious health risks. Despite advances in health care, Amnesty International reported in 2010 that deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the United States have doubled during the past two decades.
The financial costs are as steep – the average cost of prenatal care is about $2,000. Childbirth Connection reports that in 2009, the average cost of a hospital vaginal delivery without complications was $9,617, and with complications, the bill came to an average of $12,532. Caesarean births can range from $15,799 without complications to $21,495 with complications. And for those who put off pregnancy – the average price tag on a single cycle of in vitro fertilization is nearly $12,500.
Regardless of how you give birth, the baby will incur a separate bill for their care. The expenses for a healthy full term infant typically run between $1,500 and $4,000. If the baby is born premature or with health problems, neonatal costs can range from a few thousand dollars for a short stay in NICU to more than $200,000 if the child is born more than 15 weeks early.
According to the USDA’s annual survey of how much families spend on raising children, the average middle-income couple with two kids can expect to pay between $12,290 and $14,320 per year in child rearing costs, and a baby born in the year 2012 will likely cost her parents $300,000 between the day she’s born and the day she heads off to college. But that’s only for families with two parents — single mothers usually pay more for childcare.
Women who take maternity leave to care for children or who leave the workforce for a few years also take a professional hit that can range from loss of salary raises, delayed advancement up the corporate ladder and even being fired.
Women and Cancer
Almost 227,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year. About 47,000 women were diagnosed with endometrial cancer (of the uterus), and 22,000 found out they had ovarian cancer. In the most recent year for which data is available, 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer over a 12-month period. Efforts to prevent these cancers can save families and insurance companies millions of dollars.
If we really want to address issues of importance to women and their families, we need to recognize that women’s health issues are economic issues. Barriers to access to family planning services, eliminating health screenings and restricting insurance coverage make no fiscal sense.
Trust me on this, anything that costs this much money is an economic issue!