A good portion of what I do as a family practice Physician Assistant involves counseling women and men about birth control.
I have also gone to public schools and counseled junior high school students about puberty and sex.
One thing is for certain… the answer to solving America's health care problems is definitely not placing restrictions or further boundaries on access to safe, effective contraception.
Of course right now in the news a big debate is raging over weather or not religious institutions should be required to provide family planning services. These are often the same religious institutions that aim to curb the ever rising rates of abortion. To me this seems backwards.
If I don’t believe in smoking is the best way to curb the rising rates really by denying my patients a prescription for Chantix?
The Contraceptive Conundrum
Of the six million pregnancies that occur among American women each year, nearly half are unintended. As a result, American women experience 1.4 million unplanned births and 1.3 million abortions annually.
In 2007 The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which specializes in reproductive health issues, released a massive study showing that abortion rates rise and fall in synch with the availability of family planning services.
From the Guttmacher Institute's news release, its study, and the Washington Post report, we learn that states which fund programs to make family planning services widely accessible had lower rates of unplanned pregnancies -- and women having abortions.
In recent years, many states cut back on these programs, making poor women and girls more likely to have unintended pregnancies. Meanwhile, the religious right is aggressively campaigning both to end the availability of abortion and to limit access to contraception.
The United States has sky-high rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. As Guttmacher President Sharon L. Camp told the Washington Post, "Unintended pregnancy in the United States is twice as high as in most of Western Europe. As a direct result, abortion rates are twice or three times as high as European countries.
There is no reason why abortion rates need to be as high as they are.
At What Cost?
The direct medical costs of unintended pregnancies were US$9.4 billion in 2002.
Direct medical cost savings due to contraceptive use were US $12 billion.
Teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $10.9 billion in 2008, according to an updated analysis by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Most of the costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers, including increased costs for health care, foster care, incarceration, and lost tax revenue.
Contraception, unsafe abortions and complicated pregnancies
The risk of a woman dying from pregnancy-related causes during her lifetime is about 1 in 4,800 in the USA and 1 in 17,400 in Sweden as compared to 1 in 7 in Niger.
Worldwide some 200 million women of childbearing age want to delay or avoid pregnancy, but 137 million use no method of contraception at all.
Every year, 190 million women become pregnant, at least a third of them unintentionally.
Nearly 50 million women resort to abortion every year, and 19 million are done under unsafe conditions. An estimated 68,000 women die each year as a result. Millions more suffer infections and other complications, such as infertility.
Family planning can prevent the serious health consequences of becoming pregnant
within six months of an abortion (anemia, membrane rupture, low-birth weight, preterm delivery).
Contraceptive use drastically reduces the chances of unintended pregnancy. Over the course of a year, only 8% of women using the pill will become pregnant, compared with 85% of sexually active women not using contraceptives.
This fact alone helps explain why the 7% of U.S. women at risk of unintended pregnancy who do not practice contraception account for almost half of the country's unintended pregnancies.
|WOMEN IN NEED OF CONTRACEPTION, 2000|
|State||Overall, # in 000s||With public support|
|% of all||# in 000s|
|District of Columbia||85||48.2||41|
|Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), Women in Need of Contraceptive Services and Supplies,|
Some Final thoughts
I know there is a ton of data here. But I think it comes down to this. If the goal of the religious right is to save lives then they need to preserve access to contraception.
If conservatives want to save money and reduce taxes then they need to preserve access to contraception.
If conservatives want to protect the constitution then they need to remove a biased religious based judgment from medical decision making.
And this is why religion and health care shouldn't mix!