‘Whoops’ pregnancies cost taxpayers $12.5 billion

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A study finds taxpayers awash in bills for diapers and formula: Medicaid and other public health programs paid for 1.1 million births in 2008 that resulted from “unintended” pregnancies.

Public spending on these unintended-pregnancy births reached $12.5 billion in 2008, Guttmacher Institute researchers Adam Sonfield and Kathryn Kost say in their study, released Tuesday.

Costs could have been much higher, they warn: “In the absence of the publicly funded family-planning effort, the annual public costs of births from unintended pregnancy would have been twice as high — $25 billion, rather than the $12.5 billion estimated in this report.”

Taxpayers paid $2.2 billion in family planning services in 2010, Guttmacher says in a separate report.

Government programs that cover maternity care include Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Indian Health Service.

“Unintended” pregnancy is a research term used to describe pregnancies that women say were unexpected, unwanted or “mistimed.”

While these kinds of “whoops” pregnancies do happen to married couples, more than 70 percent occur to single women, including those cohabiting or in unstable relationships, according to specialists on fragile families.

Federal officials estimate that 1.67 million births in 2008 were from unintended pregnancies, Mr. Sonfield and Ms. Kost said.

They crunched numbers and determined that 65 percent of those 1.67 million births were paid for by public health insurance.

When prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum care and a year of care for the infant were calculated, the average amount spent on a birth was $12,613.

The $12.5 billion estimate was drawn from $7.3 billion in federal spending and $5.2 billion in state spending, the researchers say in their report on public costs for unintended pregnancies in 2008.

Mississippi and Louisiana both used public funds to pay for more than 80 percent of unintended-pregnancy births and the District of Columbia paid for 90 percent of such births. But the practice was common: In 42 states, most of these births were paid for by public programs.

The Guttmacher researchers decried “political attacks” against family planning providers and funding, and called for “substantial new public investments” in family planning and sex-education programs.

Pro-life groups, however, have called for reduced funding for family-planning programs — because of their connections to abortion — and more investigations into Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a prominent provider of family planning services and abortion.

Guttmacher Institute was once closely affiliated with Planned Parenthood. However, the groups’ “special affiliation status” ended in 2007.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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