Women’s Health The Uncertain Economics Of Family Planning Under The New Administration


Publish Date:
February 15, 2017
  • Duff-Brown, Beth
Stanford Health Policy - Exposure
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Before the Affordable Care Act was adopted in 2010, pregnancy could be considered a pre-existing condition that allowed an expectant mother to be denied health insurance.

One-third of women between the ages of 25 to 40 were charged at least 30 percent more for the same medical coverage as men of the same age, costing American women an estimated $1 billion more annually, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Michelle Mello, a professor of health research and policy at the Stanford School of Medicine and professor of law at Stanford Law School, as well as a core faculty member of Stanford Health Policy, was a signatory to a brief submitted to the Supreme Court by public health academics and the American Public Health Association in support of the Texas abortion provider’s challenge.

She said that while the Texas law ostensibly was enacted to protect women’s health, it had the opposite effect by limiting women’s’ safe access to an early termination.

“More than 60,000 Texas women per year obtain legal abortions,” Mello said at the time of the ruling in June 2016. “While we’d all like to see this number go down, you can’t restrict access to abortion while also failing to provide adequate support for other methods of family planning.

“History makes it abundantly clear that the result will be greater numbers of women resorting to illegal, unsafe abortions or facing the mental and physical health risks of carrying unwanted pregnancies to term,” Mello said.

Khiara Bridges, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School who just taught a course in reproductive justice, said she’s most worried about the defunding of Planned Parenthood, as the nonprofit women’s health care organization offers so much more than abortion. In fact, only 3 percent of its funding goes toward the termination of pregnancies; the lion’s share goes to contraception, cancer screening, and prevention, as well testing and treating sexually transmitted diseases. No federal funds go toward abortions at Planned Parenthood’s 650 health centers, which serve some 2.5 million women each year.

“If it is defunded, it would be a tragedy of epic proportions as the most marginalized, most vulnerable women will be impacted the most,” said Bridges, who is a professor of law and anthropology at Boston University School of Law. “The problem is the poorest women don’t have that option of finding insurance or other alternatives – and they’re going to be left without health care.”

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