Economy Health Reproductive Rights

Pregnancy Pricetags, Impossible Choices: Women in the US Are Between A Rock and a Hard Place

Recently, a NYTimes article revealed the huge – and often hidden – costs of having a baby in the US:

From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold,according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found.

Women with insurance pay out of pocket an average of $3,400, according to a survey byChildbirth Connection, one of the groups behind the maternity costs report. Two decades ago, women typically paid nothing other than a small fee if they opted for a private hospital room or television.

In most developed nations, maternal care is relatively cheap and often covered by state healthcare; in the US, however, many women are without healthcare, and even those who do have general coverage often don’t have maternity coverage. During delivery, services must be purchased individually – each ultrasound for $1,000, an epidural for an additional $1,000 – and hospitals sometimes can’t even offer accurate estimates of the cost of giving birth. One would think that the huge cost of pregnancies in the US would mean decent maternal care, but that is unfortunately not the case: the rates of infant and maternal mortality in the US are incredibly high for an industrialized nation. In the US, 21 mothers die out of every 100,000 live births, compared to Sweden’s 5 out of every 100,000.

When women get pregnant in America, they pay more and die more than women in other industrialized nations. Reproductive justice is not yet a reality for women, as reproductive health services and maternal care are quite simply unaffordable for many. And while women cannot afford to become parents, they are also being denied their right to end unwanted pregnancies, gradually, state by state. It seems as though women are being put in a tighter and tighter bind, and one which may be financially impossible to navigate in this economy. Many women who absolutely cannot afford the tens of thousands of dollars that it takes to safely give birth child to a healthy child are losing their other options every day. Now, women cannot access or afford the health services they need, regardless of whether they choose to keep the child or to end the pregnancy.

Taking away vital health services and restricting a woman’s right to choose does not lead to a happy and healthy family, and the difference between a child who survives and a child who struggles may be as high as a $45,000 bundle fee for delivery. Policy changes need to be enacted that give women a full spectrum of family planning resources and choices – starting with comprehensive sex education and lasting through a mother’s time of child-rearing. With children come unexpected costs and sacrifices – but your life savings, and even your life itself, shouldn’t be on the table.

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