3 Reasons Why Reproductive Rights Are Absolutely An Economic Issue

Take note, Republican presidential candidates.

Economic policy was the focus of the fourth Republican debate Tuesday night, but noticeably absent from the conversation was any substantive discussion of women's healthcare.

Providing women with affordable contraception and access to safe, legal abortion is absolutely an economic concern -- and the economy, as a whole, benefits when our leaders understand that. So, a big ol' heads-up to the GOP Presidential candidates: Protecting and promoting women's reproductive rights is simply good economic policy. Here's why.

1. Public funding for family planning significantly cuts down on unintended births.

According to a report from The Guttmacher Institute, in 2013, publicly funded contraceptive services helped avert a whopping 2 million unintended pregnancies, nearly 700,000 of which would have resulted in abortion (and, it should be noted here that all of the GOP candidates take an anti-abortion stance), and 1 million of which would have resulted in an unplanned birth. In 2013, without publicly funded family planning services, the number of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and abortions would have been 60 percent higher, Guttmacher estimates.

And unintended births are expensive. For example, Guttmacher estimates that in 2008, births resulting from unintended pregnancy cost the United States $12.5 billion.

2. Not covering abortion places an unfair financial burden on the most vulnerable women.

"If a low-income woman does not have insurance coverage of abortion, she may need to raise money for the procedure, including forgoing basic necessities or selling or pawning personal items," the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) explains -- and that may also mean she doesn't get in for an abortion until later in her pregnancy, when things are potentially more complicated and expensive. (With few exceptions, Medicaid coverage for abortion is extremely limited.) 

According to one investigation, roughly 4,000 women a year are denied an abortion because of gestational age limits in clinics, and the top reason why women in that study delayed seeking care is simply because they needed more time to come up with money to cover the cost of the procedure and their travel.

3. Access to reproductive health care boosts economic security and employment opportunities for women.

Being able to plan if and when they have children has been linked to greater educational and professional achievement among women, according to the NWLC. It also helps increase their lifetime earnings. And research suggests the economic benefits trickle down through the generations: At least one study has shown that women whose moms had access to birth control had higher family incomes and college completion rates decades later. Plus, access to the birth control pill has contributed to the rise of women in professional fields typically dominated by men, such as medicine and the law. 

A comprehensive Guttmacher report on birth control access broke down the many economic benefits to women point by point: When women have access to contraception and are able to avoid unplanned pregnancy, more of them obtain at least some college education; more college-educated women pursue advanced degrees and more women overall participate in the paid workplace. Access to contraception also increases women's earning power and helps decrease the persistent gender pay gap.

Protecting women's reproductive rights, in other words, helps ensure they are able to get into the workforce and stay there -- and that is undeniably a very good thing for the United States economy.

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