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Category: Politics, Health, Reproductive Rights

Choice Voice: Health Is Wealth

| March 4, 2011


Talk about fiscal responsibility: for every dollar spent helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies, the country saves 4 dollars in Medicaid expenditures that would have gone towards pregnancy-related care. While GOP leaders spout rhetoric about conservative spending and decreasing the deficit, this statistic is conveniently overlooked. 

Instead, the national dialogue about the federal budget, playing out on 24-hour news networks and in editorial columns, has been distilled into a debate about abortion. From racist billboards to the Ohio courtroom where a fetus will testify via ultrasound, conservatives have managed to re-cast an economic platform into a social agenda. The current budget debate is, indeed, about the right to an abortion, but there’s much more at stake. The bills passed by the House would eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning programs. The Hyde Amendment has prohibited the use of federal money for abortions since the 1970s, so what is really at stake?

Federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood and Title X-supported family planning centers pay for cervical cancer screenings, mammograms, STD-testing and contraception. In fact, Title X- supported centers served 4.7 million women in 2008, and by avoiding unintended pregnancies, saved taxpayers $3.4 billion that same year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These facts don’t match the so-called pro-life rhetoric of the politicians leading this latest assault on women’s health.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed the “No Taxpayer Money for Abortion Act” known as HR 3, which would limit access to abortion even if the mother’s life is at risk. As Jon Stewart said so succinctly, “that’s so pro-life even if it kills you.” The Arizona House passed two bills to restrict services and funding for Planned Parenthood. A proposed law in Ohio would make abortion illegal as soon as the fetus has a heartbeat, as early as 18 days after conception. In Texas, Republican Governor Rick Perry has made it an “emergency priority” to pass legislation that would require a woman to get an ultrasound between 24 and 72 hours before an abortion. South Dakota is set to enact the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country.

Thankfully, women and men across the country, and on both sides of the aisle, are rallying to protect their access to healthcare.  Soon after 6000 people in New York stood up to support Planned Parenthood, the NYC City Council passed a major legislative victory for choice.  Meanwhile, Wyoming tried, and failed, to place further restrictions on access to abortion. Republican representatives Lisa Shepperson and Sue Wallis both voted against the measure. Shepperson said, “And we, you know, as competent adults can make those decisions for ourselves. That's not the role of government in my mind, and I really wish that Washington would focus on things that are going to make a difference to our economy like jobs and true healthcare that will help the common everyday people.”

If protecting choice means trusting women and fixing the deficit means trusting the facts, then it’s hard to reach any other conclusion: supporting women’s heath is not only good for women, but also for the economy.