Unplanned Pregnancy: What's the REAL Cost?

Teen pregnancy costs us a lot more than we think...so why aren't we doing anything?

In a society that actually glorifies teen pregnancy with shows like MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” it’s easy to forget that unplanned pregnancy — for women of any age — has real affects.  Obviously it’s hard on the woman herself, who, in many cases, is single and may have a hard time dealing with a child financially.

But it’s also hard on society as a whole.  There are approximately 4 million pregnancies each year, and 25 – 50% of them are unplanned — a whopping 1 – 2 million pregnancies each year!!  When a woman is pregnant and doesn’t or can’t have a job, she’s entitled to certain medical care and so forth.  Not that I disagree that women have a right to medical care; but just what does this actually cost us, in tax payer dollars, and could the money be spent in better ways — like prevention?

According to a new article, each unplanned pregnancy costs the tax payers about $9,000.  That means we’re looking at a total bill of $9 – $12 billion dollars per year, just on unplanned pregnancy (according to the study)! 

This money is spent on “abortions, fetal losses, births, and infant medical care.”  That is, any outcome of unintended pregnancy, not just the ones that carry to term.  (This study doesn’t estimate the costs to society of those infants after birth, on programs like WIC, but I’d imagine it’s quite a bit more.)

Most of these babies are born to low-income women, and are more likely to grow up on public assistance, less likely to succeed in school, and more likely to be involved in criminal activity.

I don’t know about you, but that upsets me.  What is going on with our sex education that so many pregnancies — nearly half of all pregnancies – are unintended?  Surely women are taught how their bodies work, and how to avoid pregnancy when they’re not yet prepared?  And of course, 16 and Pregnant isn’t helping at all.  There have been stories about girls actually getting pregnant on purpose just to get on the show!  While clearly that’s not “unintended,” it might as well be, from a public assistance standpoint.

The study estimates that we could save about half that amount of money by providing appropriate sex education and access to birth control, instead of having to finance these abortions and prenatal care.

So why aren’t we doing it?  Why aren’t we improving the quality of sex education programs?  Why aren’t we teaching girls the stark reality of unplanned pregnancy — instead of glamorizing it on TV shows? 

What do you think?  Is this figure unacceptably high, and do we need to explore better prevention options?

Top image by Polina Sergeeva

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