The Guttmacher Institute’s new analysis of unintended pregnancy should serve as a national wake-up call.
August 24, 2011
In addition to showing little overall progress in lowering the rates of unintended pregnancy since the mid-1990s, the analysis reveals a huge and growing disparity in unintended pregnancies between higher- and lower-income Americans. From 1994 to 2006, the unintended pregnancy rate declined by nearly a third among women living well above the national poverty level, yet it increased by half among those living below the poverty line. The take-home message is clear: we need to do more to prevent unintended pregnancy, and access to affordable birth control is one significant way to do that.
“Women who become pregnant unintentionally are less likely to get timely prenatal care, and their children are at increased risk of low birth weight and infant mortality. There is no question that birth control prevents unintended pregnancy and reduces these risks. Unfortunately, too many American women still lack access to birth control they can afford to use in a consistent manner.
“It’s no coincidence that low-income women have more unintended pregnancies. Even for those with health insurance, co-pays for birth control pills can range from $15 to $50 per month, and longer-acting methods can cost several hundred dollars to start. Americans agree that women shouldn’t have to choose between birth control and other basic necessities. One recent survey found that 82 percent favor expanding access for those who can’t afford it.
“Thanks to a recent decision by the Obama administration, we can look forward to progress in making birth control more affordable to more women. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it is including all FDA-approved birth control methods in the list of preventive services that will be fully covered under the Affordable Care Act. This means that new insurance plans will offer birth control with no additional out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays — as many public insurance programs already do. The Guttmacher analysis shows how important this decision will be in keeping women and families healthy.
“By expanding access to affordable birth control, we can create a healthier nation.”