Poverty shapes the lives of an increasing number of American women and their families and has many consequences, including high rates of unintended pregnancy. Conservatives, eager to further dismantle federal programs and defeat the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), have recently rekindled the idea that marriage promotion will reverse rising rates of poverty, unintended pregnancy, and single parenthood. To the contrary, addressing the root causes of poverty requires multiple interventions and far more generous government programs across a range of issues, particularly the expansion of reproductive health and family planning information, care, and services.
In this paper, Ellen Chesler and Andrea Flynn review the recent literature on women’s poverty and health and argues that accessible and high-quality family planning services for poor women remain an essential component of poverty reduction. It also looks back at the history of policy debates over this question in the hope of finding a path toward renewed bipartisan consensus.