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How The AHCA Will Put More Women In Poverty

According to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office, moving forward with the American Health Care Act — also known as "Trumpcare" — could have a seriously scary side effect for many American women. Part of the AHCA includes removing Planned Parenthood's Medicaid support, which would deprive the organization of approximately $178 million in funding by the end of this year alone. Defunding Planned Parenthood would ensure more unintended pregnancies and could trap thousands of women in poverty.

As the Congressional Budget Office explained in its report, cutting Planned Parenthood funding would directly "affect services that help women avert pregnancies." The women who would be most affected by that reduction in access to services would be low-income women living in areas without many other affordable health care options. By the CBO's estimate, 15 percent of people living in such areas would lose access to care — which would mean several thousands of extra births per year in the United States.

The thing is, those births would affect women who are already struggling with poverty — and help trap them in that cycle. Low-income women are already more than five times more likely to become unintentionally pregnant than wealthier women, according to the Guttmacher Institute, due to reduced use of contraception and lower rates of abortion. By limiting women's access to both methods of birth control even further by defunding Planned Parenthood, the number of accidental pregnancies will likely rise.

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As wonderful as having a child can be once a person is ready and excited to have one, having an unexpected child can derail a woman's plans tremendously. "If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they want to," Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the non-profit public policy Brookings Institution, told Global Citizen in 2015.

One 2014 study found that giving a woman legal access to birth control by age 20 "significantly reduces the probability" that she ends up in poverty, regardless of her education, employment status, or household composition. When Colorado offered free long-acting birth control to women, the average age of first births in low-income areas went from 21 to 24, giving women more time to finish their education and further their careers (thus increasing their salaries). It's clear that access to safe, affordable family planning lowers poverty levels and leads to better economic security.

The link shouldn't be a surprise, considering the time and financial investment involved in raising children today. According to CNN, estimates made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture put the average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 (even in low-income, rural areas of the United States) at a staggering $145,500. The cost of child care alone can equal the cost of a family home, and new changes in health care are likely to affect low-income families, as well.

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On top of that, an unplanned pregnancy can disrupt a woman's work or education. According to the Guttmacher Institute, most abortion patients say that they're pursuing the procedure because they cannot afford a baby or because a baby would interfere with their education, work, or ability to care for other children.

For a large chunk of low-income women in the United States, Planned Parenthood is their only affordable option for health care, including birth control and abortions. By limiting women's access to that, the United States can expect to see a rise in unintended pregnancies and, successively, more women and children locked into poverty.