A recent survey by the Guttmacher Institute found that nearly half of the American women who responded wish to delay childbearing until the economy improves. Unfortunately, many are also skipping birth control and routine gynecological care to save money.
52% of the 947 women surveyed (PDF) report being worse off financially than they were a year ago, 75% are more concerned about money, and "Sixty-four percent of women agree with the statement, 'With the economy the way it is, I can't afford to have a baby right now.'"
But while 29% agreed with the statement ""With the economy the way it is, I am more careful than I used to be about using contraception every time I have sex," 8% sometimes skipped birth control altogether to save money, and 18% of women on the Pill reported using it inconsistently to cut costs. 23% are having a harder time affording birth control than in the past, and that "rises to one out of three among financially worse-off women."
Beyond the bullet points, the survey shows, as the report puts it, that "Family planning and childbearing decisions are not made in a vacuum, but have always been influenced by broader economic and other external forces." It's hard to believe we needed a survey to demonstrate that, but apparently, it still needs to be said. And while healthcare reform is the issue of the hour, let's not forget what Amie Newman notes over at RH Reality Check:
Pregnancy and cesarean sections can both be considered "pre-existing conditions" for which women are denied coverage. According to Think Progress, most individual health insurance markets don't cover maternity care services either. All of these kinds of policies leave women struggling to pay for the reproductive health decisions they make – in more ways than one.
I spent my entire adult life in Canada until 2005, and when I moved back to the U.S., I started looking at the cost of private health insurance, since coverage doesn't come with a freelance writing career. That was the first time I realized that a "maternity rider" costs a lot extra, and the expense was already so great I chose to gamble and skip health insurance entirely. (I went without it for three years until I got married last winter. Lucky me, being allowed to get married.) I had no desire to have a baby any time soon, but that was the first time it really hit me: I could neither afford to get pregnant by accident nor to be insured just in case. In Canada, I'd taken it for granted that if I got knocked up, my decision about whether to proceed with the pregnancy would be entirely based on my feelings about raising a child. Crossing the border meant I suddenly had to consider the cost of prenatal care and giving birth, let alone keeping the kid in food and shoes. And even for someone financially stable, those costs were great enough to potentially be a dealbreaker. It's ridiculous.
So it's nice to see a report like this highlighting the role economic considerations play in family planning. Now it would just be nice if we could get it together to address the problem with a more workable solution than "If you can't afford to get pregnant, don't spread your legs."