Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: Expanding Access to Family Planning

By Ellen Chesler, Andrea Flynn |

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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, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler and Roosevelt Institute Fellow 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.

Ellen Chesler is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute where she focuses on women’s rights and reproductive health in the U.S. and abroad. She recently published an essay collection Women and Girls Rising: Progress and resistance around the world.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, where she researches and writes about issues that impact women and families. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, Cosmopolitan, Salon, The Hill, and Women’s eNews. You can follow Andrea on Twitter @dreaflynn.