Opportunity in a Pill Pack
What if history had demonstrated repeatedly, across the world, that there was a way to improve economic conditions for families, raise wages for women, reduce crime and cut the abortion rate? Would Americans race to embrace this opportunity for improved social and economic conditions or would they turn away? What if the opportunity came packaged in the form of free birth control for all women?
Today, from Bangladesh to Singapore, societies are learning that providing birth control to women benefits everyone. In Matlab, Bangladash women who were given access to contraceptives over two decades obtained higher-valued homesteads, more agriculture, nonagriculture, and financial assets than did women who did not get access to contraceptives. Their children had a lower rate of childhood mortality and received a higher rate of prenatal care and childhood vaccinations. In Singapore, one of the safest cities in the world, a coordinated government effort to lower the birth rate has been recognized as a strong contributing factor to their low crime rate.
Studies out of United States history also provide strong evidence to support the societal benefit of providing free birth control to women. The University of Michigan has shown that “about one third of women’s wage gains throughout the 1990’s can be attributed to changing laws in the 1960’s and 70’s that lowered the age at which women could access the pill.” In fact, they found that women who “had early access to the pill in the 1960’s and 70’s earned 8% more on average by the 1980’s and 1990’s than women without early access.” The cause in a few words? More women finished college without being interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy and that degree caused them to earn more money over the course of their lifetime.
A study from Obstetrics & Gynecology also recently showed that free birth control even reduces the abortion rate. In a study of 9,256 women ages 14-45 residing in St. Louis who were at risk for unintended pregnancy, providing the women with free contraceptives caused a drop in their teen pregnancy rate and cut the rate of abortions for participants in half.
So, if free birth control for women has been demonstrated to improve economic conditions for families, raise wages for women, reduce crime, and cut the abortion rate why wouldn’t we embrace this opportunity?