What family planning has to do with the economy

Katha Pollitt wrote an article in the Nation about the connection between family planning and the economy. She said,

The stimulus will pass, and Republicans will get no credit. Low-income women get the shaft, but they should be used to it by now.

Thank god someone is writing about why family planning belongs in an economic stimulus bill. It’s time we began looking at women as an integral part of our economy, not just some marginal human beings who are expected to have indirect access to the “shovel jobs” by making sure they are married to a man who has a shovel.

So the question: what does family planning and contraception have to do with an economic stimulus plan?

Is birth control tangential to the stimulus? Only if all health spending is, but no one (so far) is arguing that the massive sums for health care be removed from the bill. In fact, when it comes to keeping women hale and hearty contraception is right up there with childhood vaccines and antibiotics. So, given that the stimulus bill contains other health provisions, including 4 billion dollars for preventive care, why is contraception different? Because anti-choice Republicans say so? If health care belongs in the bill, and birth control is health care, then it is not “tangential.” QED.

I would go further: expanding access to contraception does indeed help the economy. The production, prescribing, buying and selling of birth control is an economic activity — funding more of it means more clinics, more clinic workers, more patients,more customers, more people making the products. Moreoever, the provision removed from the stimulus bill would spend money now– about 550 million, over ten years, a drop in the bucket — to save the government much more money later, as the Congressional Budget Office estimates would happen within a few years. (Actually, according to the Wall Street Journal blog, it would save an annual $100 billion, but I’m putting that in parenthesis because it such a huge amount I keep thinking it has to be a typo.)

More important, what about the economics of actually existing women and families? This is no time to be saddling people with babies they don’t want and can’t provide for, who will further reduce the resources available for the kids they already have and further limit parents’ ability to get an education or a job. In a Depression, birth rates go down for a reason. People.Have.No. Money. Furthermore, when people lose their jobs they lose their health insurance. A year’s supply of pills is around $600 retail. That’s a significant amount of money to low-income women.

It is refreshing to see someone present information about this. We’ve heard a lot of ridiculous things this week from the Republican men who couldn’t take the idea seriously enough to keep from winking and making jokes because the words “contraception” and “stimulation” appeared together in a concept. Removing this type of WM politician from contolling women’s lives and reproductive health was one of the major accomplishments of this election.

Pollit urges her readers to contact the House (too late – the vote was today) and the Senate, which may still be a good idea.

Either way, it’s way past time to have an intelligent conversation about this.

Read the article in The Nation


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