Unintended Pregnancies Carry Big Price Tag


Taxpayers spend more than $11 billion each year as a result of unintended pregnancies, according to new data from two separate studies.

The estimates are based on public insurance costs for pregnancies and infant care in the first year. Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute used state-level data from 2006 to come up with a national estimate of $11.1 billion in public spending on unintended pregnancies. In a separate study, researchers at the Brookings Institution came up with their figures by using 2001 national data on publicly financed unintended pregnancies, resulting in average spending of $11.3 billion annually. Both studies were published in the June issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute found that public programs such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program bear the brunt of the nation's costs for unintended pregnancies (Perspect. Sex. Reprod. Health 2011;43:94–102 [doi:10.1363/4309411]). While 38% of U.S. births result from unintended pregnancies, births from unintended pregnancies make up about half of publicly funded births. But reducing unintended pregnancies also will require major new public investments, the Guttmacher researchers wrote, including increasing access to family planning services and comprehensive sex education. The Affordable Care Act may help, too, they said, by expanding insurance coverage and giving new authority to states to expand Medicaid eligibility for family planning services.

While preventing unintended pregnancies would require an up-front investment, the researchers at the Brookings Institution said it would be more than offset by potential savings. They estimated that if unintended pregnancies could be prevented altogether, with some being delayed until the women were ready to be pregnant, it could save taxpayers about $5.6 billion annually (Perspect. Sex. Reprod. Health 2011;43:88–93 [doi: 10.1363/4308811]).

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