Costs of Unplanned Pregnancies

The Brookings Institute has published a new study, The High Cost of Unintended Pregnancy. The abstract describes the conclusion of the study:

The high incidence of unintended pregnancy imposes costs on American society that range from increased rates of crime and welfare participation to reduced levels of high-school completion and labor-force participation. We focus on one of the most policy-relevant aspects of this problem by estimating the amount spent by the government each year on medical care that is directly associated with unintended pregnancies. We find that taxpayers spend about $12 billion annually on publicly financed medical care for women who experience unintended pregnancies and on infants who were conceived unintentionally. After accounting for the fact that some of these pregnancies are merely mistimed while others are altogether unwanted, we also estimate that taxpayers would save about half of this amount if all unintended pregnancies could be prevented. With state and federal budgets being scoured for potential savings—and in light of the mounting evidence showing that there are a number of cost-effective policy options for reducing unintended pregnancies—our results suggest that policymakers should increase their investments in proven pregnancy-prevention strategies.

The Brookings Institute has staked out a strong position in favor of public funding for pregnancy prevention, often relying upon the argument that such funding will reduce abortions. See Family Planning Subsidies: Much Ado About Something. As noted in an earlier blog entry, the evidence supporting this claim is mixed at best.

For prolifers, the key question in this debate is how “pregancy-prevention” is defined. Does it include abortifacient methods that are intended to prevent implantation after the sperm and the egg unite to create a separate and distinctive human being?

Another important question is whether strong public emphasis on the desirability of such programs reinforces the idea that if contraception fails, women are justified in aborting their pregnancies since they attempted to avoid conception. Studies show that women obtaining abortions often have used contraception, but have discontinued its use or not adhered to the directions for effective use. See studies cited in here and in Kristin Luker’s book, Taking Chances: Abortion and the Decision Not to Contracept.

Teresa Collett

Teresa Stanton Collett is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches bioethics, property law, and constitutional law. A nationally prominent speaker and scholar, she is active in attempts to rebuild the Culture of Life and protect the institutions of marriage and family. She often represents groups of state legislators, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in appellate case related to medical-legal matters. She represented the governors of Minnesota and North Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court as amici curiae regarding the effectiveness of those states’ parental involvement laws. She has served as special attorney general for Oklahoma and Kansas related to legislation designed to protect the well-being of minors and unborn children. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittees on the Constitution, as well as numerous legislative committees in the states.