Friday, April 29, 2011

Unveiling Costly Misconceptions: Social Impact of State Family Planning Services

Few government expenditures are more controversial – and misunderstood – than those utilized for family planning services (FPS). Yet the dramatic benefits of these services for low-income mothers, families and the society at large are often left out of the debate.

A principal mistake that is often made in this dialogue is to equate family planning services with abortion. As mentioned in a recent Star Tribune article, Title X funds and other monies appropriated for FPS cannot be legally used for abortions. Rather, family planning services include client counseling and education, contraceptive drugs and devices, and diagnostic tests and treatment (such as pregnancy and STI tests).

Yet equating abortion with family planning services takes the spotlight off of FPS's dramatic social benefits, including:

  • Decreases in Unintended Pregnancies & Abortions: Title X-supported contraceptive services helped Minnesota prevent 7,600 unintended pregnancies in 2008, which would have resulted in 3,400 births and 3,200 abortions. In fact, it is estimated that without these services, the level of abortions in Minnesota would be 24% higher (Guttmacher Institute 2008).
  • Decreases in Teenage Pregnancy: In the absence of Title X services, Minnesota would have 33% higher levels of teenage pregnancy (Guttmacher Institute, 2010).
  • Significant Public Savings: By decreasing the incidence of unintended pregnancies and the Medicaid-covered births that would follow, Minnesota saved an estimated $330,000 in 2008 (Guttmacher Institute, 2010). For every $1 spent on FPS, $4.02 is saved (Front, Finer, Tapales 2008).
  • Improved Infant Health: Research shows that FPS results in significant decreases in the number of low-birth weight babies, births with late or no prenatal care, and indirect reductions of neonatal and infant mortality (Meier & McFarlane, 1994).

Revenue Sources

While states rely on different mixes of various funds for FPS, Minnesota utilizes the following sources:

  • Title X (13%) & MCH Block Grant (4%): Federal funding that provides a mix of blanket family planning services to all 50 states.
  • State Appropriations (25%) – While states on average contribute only 13% to FPS, Minnesota’s Family Planning Special Projects Grants constitutes 25% of family planning expenditures, which includes some culture-specific program such as the Somali Child Spacing Program.

High Demand

Like most public welfare problems, FPS is considered an inferior good. These services are also price inelastic, as the skyrocketing prices for contraceptive services and demand for newer technology has been matched with an increased number of consumers (Guttmacher Institute 2008).


Considering the dramatic benefits, cost savings, and high demand for FPS in Minnesota and the greater United States, policymakers should fight to preserve this expenditure.

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