Contraception’s Bang for the Buck
JUNEAU, AK—Opposition to abortion rights has been the political hallmark of Alaska State Senator Fred Dyson (R-Eagle River). He is also, as these ironies invariably go, opposed to expanding contraceptive access.
“By and large, sexual activity is recreation,” the senator intoned today during floor debate on SB49. “The state shouldn’t finance other people’s recreation.”
Does the senator favor elimination of all state parks? What of the Department of Fish & Game—some of which relates to subsistence, but which also serves recreational endeavors? Is he aware that it is public, state-financed roads taking us to our state’s ski resorts, or does he imagine it’s more of a private toll road type of situation?
Alas, the senator’s pronouncements are of course the latest variation on the banal why should I pay for you to have sex talking point, which ignores the obvious, readily demonstrable fact that people have sex regardless of whether or not they have access to contraception. It’s not the having sex part for which we’re paying, cognitively challenged legislators fail to grasp, but for reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies resulting from it.
In a state with the dubious distinction of leading the nation in STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, expanding contraceptive access also isn’t the worst idea from a public health—as well as a fiscal—standpoint. (Referring to the role of contraception in prostitution, “the fee for service easily covers the cost of supplies” calculates the apparently price tag-familiar senator.)
You’d think a sitting legislator would have a passing familiarity with the costs associated with unwanted pregnancies—from the social assistance programs conservatives so despise, to the increased likelihood of incurring court, law enforcement and imprisonment costs. It would be nice if conservative legislators acknowledged that contraceptive access is by far the most cost-effective, fiscally conservative approach to the reality that humans have sex.
Alas, politicians like Dyson and their supporters are of course the first to complain about abortions and welfare babies. Both of which are made less likely by contraception, not by the wishful thinking aka “abstinence” approach that’s been shown to be a gigantic failure from the Bible Belt to Alaska’s most famous household.
There has never been some mythical Golden Age of Abstinence, but we’re supposed to pretend otherwise. Suggesting that young people, for instance, wouldn’t harbor any thoughts of a sexual nature unless and until they received access to contraception and medically sound information is a bit like saying you shouldn’t carry auto insurance, because it’ll just make you want to get into a wreck.
I’m no gynecologist, but I feel reasonably confident that 100% of abortions are performed on women who are pregnant. If you want to make an abortion less likely, make an unwanted pregnancy less likely. And the jury is no longer out regarding what does and does not work in that regard. Anti-abortion social conservatives and fiscal conservatives alike should be the very first to call for the most expanded, readily available family planning access possible.
California’s abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level in decades, for instance, with investigators citing “increased use of birth control and improvements in birth control efficacy for the trend.”
One sees a similar pattern nationwide. “The wider use of contraceptives,” reports The New York Times, “appears to be an important factor in the reported recent decline.” By contrast, “anti-abortion laws had only a minimal impact on the number of women obtaining abortions.” It’s long past time to call out the Fred Dysons of the world, who clearly prefer to keep abortion as a political issue and fundraising tool than in actually reducing the number of abortions.
Here’s the senator in full rhetorical glory: