Access to long-acting birth control methods could save U.S. $12 billion every year

WASHINGTON — If every woman in the United States had access to long-acting birth control methods — like intrauterine devices or the progestin implant — the country would save about $12 billion in public health care costs annually, according to a new report.

The study, released Tuesday by Child Trends, a nonprofit research group focused on children and families and commissioned by Planned Parenthood, builds on a 2015 study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

That analysis examined the pregnancy rates of women who went to any of 40 Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide, finding that, in the 20 clinics where staff were trained on how to administer IUDs or implants (compared with the 20 where staff were not), women were more likely to use these methods.

For those women who did, eventual pregnancy rates were lower.

Using this data and a model developed by researchers at The Brookings Institution, Child Trends determined that widespread use of these highly effective, long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods would result in a 64 percent drop in unintended pregnancies, as well as far fewer abortions — a 67 percent decrease.

These outcomes, the group found, would reduce public health care costs by $12 billion yearly.

How the Republicans’ ‘extreme agenda’ would impact birth control

Opinion polls indicate that 89 percent of Americans believe birth control is morally acceptable. This is more than any other contentious issue, like divorce, premarital sex, or abortion, a 2016 survey showed.

Mounting public popularity for contraceptives might be the reason the American Health Care Act — the GOP’s proposed replacement to the Affordable Care Act — doesn’t eliminate the birth control benefit, which allowed women with private insurance plans to get their preferred birth control at no extra cost.

Though the GOP plan would keep the birth control benefit intact for private plans, it would, as was promised, “defund Planned Parenthood” by eliminating the ability of women on Medicaid to get any services at the organization’s health centers (because of the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid does not cover abortion services in most cases) and ending federal Title X grants to the organization.

Started in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, Title X is a federal grant program dedicated to reproductive health and family planning.

In short, this would eliminate the funding that subsidizes free and low-cost contraception at Planned Parenthood, much to the detriment of the group’s many low-income or uninsured clients.

The organization, which serves 2.5 million yearly, said defunding it would deny service to millions of women, who would be left with few reliable options for care.

Defunding Planned Parenthood targets the working class

Though the Child Trends analysis operates with the rather idealistic assertion that every American woman will rely on LARCs, the cost savings the new study presents could be a major incentive for fiscal conservatives inside the GOP — which is determined to cut federal spending — to consider making birth control more accessible.

However, some religious conservatives believe some LARCS, such as IUDs, are tantamount to abortions — which was one reason that Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration over its contraception mandate and won.

Preserving Title X grants for Planned Parenthood would make LARCs easier to get and use.

Based on the report, doing so would also reduce the abortion rate and save the country a considerable amount of money.

The majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood, and a GOP plan to defund it would probably be very unpopular for both progressives and conservatives.

If the AHCA is passed, though, and contraceptive access became more limited, there would be critical consequences for poor Americans, many of who supported Donald Trump and the GOP in the 2016 election.

Without access to reproductive healthcare, many would actually fare worse: Poor women would have more children, programs which work to reduce teen pregnancy would be weakened and tens of thousands of women would be without prenatal care.