The XX Factor

Recession Woes Incline Women To Have Fewer Babies

In today’s utterly-unsurprising-but-still-necessary news, the Guttmacher Institute has released a report detailing how women living in households making less than $75,000 a year are responding to the recession by losing the desire to have a baby anytime in the near future. ( PDF of the report here .) To be specific, 44 percent of the women surveyed indicated that they wanted to reduce or delay their childbearing in response to the recession. Unfortunately, the lowered desire to get pregnant doesn’t necessarily translate to better contraception use for women. In many cases, in fact, economic hard times make it all the much easier to get pregnant on accident.

The report also found, for instance, that 8 percent of the surveyed women were skimping on contraception in order to save money, and 18 percent of pill users were taking pills inconsistently to save money, usually by skipping a month or delaying refilling their pills. And as Lauren Sandler wrote in The Big Money back in May , the recession can negatively impact contraception use in other ways. This recession has created more upheaval in people’s lives-more job changes, more moving around for work, more stress in general-and all that makes it much harder to remember to take your pill on a regular basis, or to keep a box of condoms on hand. I suppose it’s easy to tell yourself you can just lay off sex until you can afford you have more money for contraception, but that kind of planning rarely works out the way we hope it will. Let’s face it: In hard times, staying in and having sex to entertain yourself becomes even more alluring, because it’s relatively cheap.

You’d think that more people would make contraception a priority, since most of us know that abortion costs a lot of money, and babies exponentially more so, but it’s long been observed in the sexpert world that most people feel guilty about spending real money on sex. People who will spend $100 a month on cable won’t spend $100 on a sex toy they’ll use all the time and will last forever.

Unfortunately, this short-changing can be tragic when it comes to contraception. Back in July, I interviewed Heather Busby of the National Network of Abortion Funds , and she confirmed that they’ve received an explosion in requests for abortion funding from desperate women since the economic crash last fall. All of which should confirm the pressing need for national health care reform that would make sure more women have the insurance coverage they need to afford regular access to contraception.