The Case for Low-Income Women's Access to Reproductive Health Care
Regardless of conservative lawmakers’ moral and religious justifications, American society cannot afford to restrict low-income women’s independence, economic opportunity, health, and ability to plan for pregnancy by limiting their access to reproductive health care. The World Health Organization defines reproductive health as: The right of men and women to be informed of and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation of their choice and the right of access to appropriate health care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. This lack of access to reproductive education, counseling, and contraception compromises the health of America’s low-income women and their children. Women in their 20s “are most at risk for an unintended pregnancy” but are “least likely to be able to afford contraception.” The rate of unintended pregnancy is highest among poor and low-income women between the ages of 18 and 24. This statistic makes the need for reproductive health care, which includes education, counseling, and contraceptive resources, especially pertinent for America’s young, low-income women. But reproductive health care is costly for both insured and uninsured women in the United States; out-of-pocket spending on oral contraceptives can account for 30% of privately insured women’s health care expenses and 68% of uninsured women’s. Because of the overall health benefits and high costs of consistent contraception, low-income women deserve to have insurance companies or Medicaid cover the costs of the Contraceptive Preventative Services created under the 2010 Affordable Care Act without cost-sharing, regardless of the religious affiliation of their employers. “For every dollar spent on voluntary family planning services to prevent unintended pregnancy, about $4 are saved in short-term costs to the government for medical care for the pregnancy and for 1 year of infant care after the birth.” Having access to contraception, reproductive education, and counseling will not only improve a low-income woman’s health, economic opportunity, and her ability to plan for pregnancy, but this coverage will also benefit her child’s health and economic opportunities, as well as the stability of the family.
Camie Carlock is a member of the Class of 2013 of Washington and Lee University.Capstone; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE]