Our Body, Our Children & Our Finances – The Choices That Should Be Ours To Make

By Kimberlee Davis

Women’s reproductive rights have been debated stridently for many years. In the early 20th century, when people didn’t speak publicly of family planning or women’s healthcare, the birth control movement evolved as a social reform initiated by several tireless women advocates for women’s reproductive rights. They believed that a woman’s ability to control the size of her family would end the cycle of women’s poverty. It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, with the introduction of the birth control pill that a woman could prevent unwanted pregnancy.  That said, with the opposition of religious institutions to contraceptives and state bans, it wasn’t until the U.S. Supreme Court handed down decisions making contraception accessible to single and married women that women finally had control over their bodies and the decision to have a child.

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Trump administration regulation that allows employers with religious or moral objections to limit a woman’s access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Essentially, if the employer doesn’t agree with a woman’s right to use contraceptives, it will not be covered by their health coverage, even if the woman has no moral issue with using birth control and desires to do so. The upshot is that religious beliefs outweighed the rights of women to control their own bodies in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Contraceptive access and economic outcomes for women are directly linked.  A woman’s access to family planning not only allows her to control her own destiny but may save her life as well as secure her economic future and that of those who rely on her. 

Having access to contraception has contributed substantially to the number of women in the workforce, increased their investment in education and their careers, increased the growth of women’s wages and reduced the probability that a woman would live in poverty.  Most importantly, the knowledge for a young woman that she can control whether and when to have a child will shape her aspirations and life planning.  For a woman who has already had children, the knowledge that she can control having any more children, will impact her ability to make career choices and her advancement without worry of another maternity leave.  Why should the potential of a woman be crushed by preventing use of contraception and forced, unwanted childbirth?  If a relationship results in an unwanted pregnancy it is the woman who will be left with the responsibility of care for the child whether single or married because women provide 70 percent of all childcare. Further women invest 90 percent of their income into their family compared to men’s 40 percent.

When women don’t have access to affordable birth control it creates a trickledown effect that adversely affects their economic well-being, their physical health and the financial health of their families and future generations.  Restricting this access is rolling back progress for women and families on so many fronts.  Why does the double standard still exist that men don’t suffer the preponderance of the consequences of unwanted childbirth and a woman’s right to the privacy to control her desire and timing of childbirth remains the subject of protracted debate?

Birth control is expensive and without insurance coverage fewer women will be able to afford it and hence use it. And once a child is born, the cost of caring for a child is also expensive and requires the necessary resources to provide the child with a safe and healthy existence. Unfortunately, the women who can’t afford contraception are also the same women who will struggle to support their children.  The effects of limited contraception accessibility go beyond the individual women and affects not only their families but the economy as a whole.

In light of the current Supreme Court ruling, now is the time for women to do their research and understand their options when it comes to contraception.  Check with your insurance plan and see whether your employer is labeled as a “religious employer”.  Speak to your human resources department or your insurance company.  Read up on different types of contraception and compare types and costs.  Some states require that insurance companies cover a year supply of contraception in one visit so explore this option in the short-term. Planned Parenthood and federally qualified health centers provide low-cost birth control and could be a solution. Some companies sell affordable birth control online as well. 

There are a multitude of financial factors a woman should consider before deciding if she’s ready to have children. Here are just a few I find most important:

Do you have healthcare coverage?

If you have healthcare coverage the average out of pocket cost of birthing/delivering a baby in a hospital is $4,500 according to a recent study published by Health Affairs. For uninsured mothers the cost of delivery could range anywhere from $9,000-$35,000 with or without complications. Just the cost of delivery alone is a significant expense for a one- or two-person household. If you are insured, looking into different healthcare options before you start trying to get pregnant is a smart decision. If there were to be any complications with you or your baby during or after the pregnancy, you want to make sure you are covered. 

Will you be a working mother? If so, what does your childcare plan look like? 

According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 70 percent of all American mothers whose children are younger than 18 are working mothers. This means a large majority of these moms have to decide who is going to watch their children while they are at work. Does dad work different hours? If you’re a single mother, do you have nearby relatives? If you’re married or single and need childcare outside of relatives, then you will have to enroll your child into a daycare or hire a nanny. In 2018 married couples in California with two children spent on average 31 percent of their income on childcare. If you plan on being a stay-at-home mother, it is smart to plan ahead and consider how your family will be able to afford living off of just one income. Will you be able to pay all the bills?  Will you be able to afford health insurance? Will you be able to save money towards your child’s future college tuition with just one income? 

What does your job’s maternity policy look like?

It’s good to know once your baby is born, how much time your job will allow you to take off. Will your vacation time be allowed to be used toward extended maternity leave? If you have a partner, will they be allowed time off? Knowing these details about your work’s maternity and paternity policies will help you better decide when would be a good time to start trying. If you aren’t allotted any paid maternity leave, you will need to budget and save a few months of income to be able to take time off. Having a newborn in the house is already stressful but having to worry about finances at the same time may overwhelm you. 

How much debt do you have? 

If you’re in debt, it’s smart to pay off that debt before you have a child. Improving your credit will also help you qualify for a bigger house and a bigger car if needed. Going into a pregnancy with a lot of debt will present hardships later on if your credit is heavily affected by it. 

There are so many factors that go into considering when to have a baby. A woman’s life is most affected when she has a child. Her finances, her career, her body, and the rest of her life will forever be changed. Having children is a glorious thing, they are gifts to this world, and they are the future of society. But, a woman – the person who has to physically carry the child – should have every right to choose when she wants to become a mother, and she should be able to get her birth control through her insurance plan without excessive expense and complication. 

Kimberlee Davis is your host of The Fiscal Feminist, a podcast show about women and their relationship with money and finances. Her mission is to help all women of all ages and wealth levels –to embrace their responsibility to themselves to achieve solid financial footing in both calm and turbulent times. Kimberlee Davis has more than 25 years of finance, legal and corporate experience, her career has included being a corporate securities lawyer, investment banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Currently, she is Managing Director and Partner at The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm. She specializes in personal wealth advising and oversees financial and retirement planning solutions.

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