Thursday, September 20, 2012

Contraception: It's the Economics, Stupid

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Here’s something a lot of people just don’t seem to get: Access to contraception is an economic issue. It’s not a “social issue.” It’s not a “women’s issue.” It’s certainly not a “religious issue.” It is, fundamentally, an economic issue.

Women pay a premium. (TheeErin/Flickr)
Men are lucky (in more ways than one, you could argue.) While a partner’s unplanned pregnancy might shake up their lives a little bit, the effect is entirely different for women. An unplanned pregnancy can turn a woman’s world upside down and shake it so hard, pieces fall off. Sperm unintentionally meets egg, and her entire life’s plan could be erased.

Plans to start a business? Unless you’re wealthy, don’t count on it.

That promotion she’s always wanted? No good. She wasn’t chosen, because she’s a mother.

Each of these decisions isn’t just a “life choice.” They have economic consequences.

According to Ann Crittenden’s “The Price of Motherhood,” college-educated women in the United States lose $1 MILLION in income over their lives when they have a child. Other research shows that higher-skilled women forfeit up to a third of their potential lifetime earnings if they decide to have children. Lower-skilled women forfeit up to 14 percent of their earnings. This isn’t a small amount.

Meanwhile, for years, women have paid up to 50% more for their health insurance, and many policies have refused to cover contraception while covering drugs for men, such as Viagra. The Affordable Care Act should change that, but a number of employers are suing to avoid covering birth control for their employees. How that will turn out is anyone’s guess.

Of course, a favorite conservative argument is that if women would just keep their legs closed, then it wouldn’t be an issue. Apparently, it’s the duty of women to divorce themselves from the sexual aspect of their humanity in order to have any shot at economic equality. I getcha.

When a lot of women weigh the costs, they decide that it’s worth it. They want to become mothers. I salute them. It’s not easy giving up so much for a job that’s unpaid, often thankless, and never ends.

But for those women who don’t want kids, or who want to delay having them in order to finish school or start careers, contraception is not “slut pills.” It’s their ticket to dream big, dare often, and accomplish just as much and be compensated as well as the guy in the office next door.

And that’s not a small thing. It’s everything.

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