Publicly funded family planning saved $13 billion -- but lawmakers don't think it's worth the investment

For every dollar spent on contraception and STI testing, the government saves 7 more. Oh, and people stay healthy

Published October 14, 2014 5:01PM (EDT)

  (<a href=''>JPC-PROD</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(JPC-PROD via Shutterstock)

We already know that publicly funded family planning efforts are a critical source of healthcare for millions of Americans, and that access to affordable contraception has positively impacted countless women's lives. But despite evidence that investing in public health improves public health, lawmakers have continued to slash safety nets for contraceptive coverage and other Title X-funded family planning programs.

According to a new analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, which has dedicated years to studying the ramifications of limiting access to reproductive healthcare, cuts to family planning aren't simply bad health policy -- they're fiscally irresponsible, too. A breakdown of data from publicly funded family planning programs found that such services helped prevent an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies and 1.1 million unplanned births, approximately 164,000 of which would have been preterm, low birth weight or both. Those programs also helped prevent nearly 761,000 abortions, which one would think might motivate the right-to-life movement to get on board with access to solid family planning.

Additionally, publicly funded services prevented over 3 million women from going without STI testing for chlamydia or gonorrhea, which the institute reports would have resulted in tens of thousands of undetected (and therefore untreated) infections. Testing help treat an estimated 99,000 cases of chlamydia and 16,000 cases of gonorrhea, as well as 410 cases of HIV. Other publicly funded reproductive health services allowed patients to detect 1,100 ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening, and 2,200 cases of infertility.

But if those numbers, which reflect such necessary and extraordinary health advantages for millions of Americans, don't seem convincing enough, there are always the economic savings. Guttmacher estimates that for every dollar spent on publicly funded family planning services, the government saves over $7. That's $13.6 billion saved -- in addition to millions of lives.

By Jenny Kutner

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