Pro-Life Advocates Counter Study on Cost of Unintended Pregnancies

A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute found that births resulting from unintended pregnancies cost the public more than $11 billion in 2006.

But pro-life advocates warn that the research devalues the worth of human life and overestimates the potential of increased promotion for contraception and abortion.

The nonprofit organization’s study relied on state data to analyze the public cost of unintended pregnancies. Nearly two-thirds of births resulting from these surprise pregnancies, more than 1 million births altogether, are publicly funded, according to the study. The money comes from federal and state governments, mostly through Medicaid and children's health insurance programs.

Because of the money unintended pregnancies are taking from taxpayers’ wallets, the Guttmacher Institute – a research group formerly affiliated with Planned Parenthood – calls for increased efforts to reduce these pregnancies, such as greater promotion of contraception and family planning services. Avoiding unintended pregnancies, through contraception or abortions, would save the government from paying for births, which carry an average price tag of $11,647, according to the research.

This study provides ammunition for opponents of proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood and other family planning funding passed earlier this month in Indiana and currently under consideration in Kansas, North Carolina, Texas and Minnesota.

“If anyone doubted that affordable birth control is good for families and good for taxpayers, these new findings should set the record straight,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

But Wendy Wright, the president of family-values organization Concerned Women for America, told that citizens should not consider pregnancies in such cut-and-dry monetary terms.

“The researchers have a bizarre way of looking at children, and clearly do not understand women,” Wright said. “While a pregnancy may be unintended, it does not mean the child is unwanted by the mother or others, nor of any less value as a person than the researchers who mislabel them.”

Michael J. New, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the conservative Witherspoon Institute, questioned the study’s claim that contraceptive programs save taxpayers billions of dollars annually, saying they based their estimate on faulty assumptions.

Wright also questioned the study’s argument that the government should increase funds for contraceptive services such as those Planned Parenthood provides.

“Government funding of Planned Parenthood-type pregnancy-prevention programs has not decreased the number of pregnancies that they call ‘unintended,’” Wright said, a fact corroborated by a 2006 Guttmacher Institute study that showed a stable rate of 49 percent of pregnancies were unintended in 1994 and 2001. In fact, between 1994 and 2001, the rate of unintended pregnancies among low-income women increased slightly.

“One obvious reason why Planned Parenthood’s programs do not work is that they encourage irresponsible sex,” Wright said. “Clearly, Planned Parenthood and their allies have no incentive for reducing so-called unintended pregnancies or abortions because then they would be out of business.”

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