Tribune Editorial: Birth control fights poverty

By The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah politicians worry a lot about poverty. The kind that causes homelessness and crime. The kind that leads to dependency. The kind that is handed down from generation to generation. The kind that leaves the taxpayers stuck for Medicaid, law enforcement, special education and other costs.

Such politicians are sometimes heard to blame the poor for their own situation, for the bad decisions and the lack of impulse control that get them into a financial hole they find it difficult to every get out of, even with taxpayer assistance.
One of the best, most efficient and most humane things a state can do to not just ease, but prevent, poverty and dependence is to put up a relative pittance of taxpayer money to help women in a particular income bracket acquire long-lasting forms of contraception.

The practice is such a no-brainer that 43 states already do it. One of the seven that does not is — wait for it — Utah.
Utah state Rep. Ray Ward — a Republican from Bountiful and a physician to boot — says he will push for the Utah Legislature to get with the program when its regular session begins in January. He deserves to succeed.

Gov. Gary Herbert saw the clear benefit of such a program this year and put it into his budget proposal. It went nowhere.
Next year, Ward will propose putting a $1 million down payment on a system that would provide IUDs or other long-lasting birth control methods to some 8,000 women who are at 95 percent of the federal poverty level — or $11,500 for a single person.

Over a few years, with the existing, pre-Obamacare federal Medicaid program picking up 90 percent of the cost, there is every reason to believe that the state will come out significantly ahead — $9 million ahead, Ward figures — by avoiding expenses associated with unplanned pregnancies and births.

And the state’s benefit will be nothing compared to the bonus realized by women who, by avoiding unplanned pregnancies, will finish school, get jobs and, when they are good and ready, start self-sufficient families.

No one would be forced to accept the birth control assistance. And, for those who object on moral or religious grounds to their tax money funding contraception for someone else, well, there are a lot of us who object, on moral and religious grounds, to capital punishment, the National Guard, subsidies to meat production and oil drilling, undermining the preservation of public lands and, while we are on the subject of health, the state’s cold-hearted rejection of full Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

But they pay for it anyway because that’s how the democratic system works.
Utah should pay for this. The benefits — political, financial and ethical — far outweigh the costs.

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