As Amanda Terkel points out over at ThinkProgress, conservatives have started complaining and mischaracterizing a provision of the stimulus bill that would “grant waivers to states to allow them to cover family planning services and supplies to low-income women who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid.” According to the text of the provision, “the bill would give states the option to provide such coverage without obtaining a waiver. States could continue to use the existing waiver authority if they preferred.”
Adding his voice to the already vocal conservative opposition, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto pretended that preventing unplanned pregnancies and promoting maternal and infant health would do nothing to stimulate the economy.
Cavuto’s rant is bizarre, if not unsurprising. Giving women access to critical health care stimulates the health industry and ensures that women are healthy enough to continue providing for their families. Reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies also insulates the government from greater financial obligations — since low income families often turn to the government for assistance — and generally lowers health care costs.
In fact, according to a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report, publicly funded family planning services would save the federal government $200 million over five years, and $400 million over ten.
But, keeping healthy women is also just good policy. It’s difficult to imagine how unwanted pregnancies help struggling families make ends meet and afford health insurance for their families.