Colorado has played the free birth control trump card to take family planning to the next level. Statistics coming from the state show that free birth control results in a decline in teen pregnancy and abortion rates especially in the poorest regions.
A birth control measure that’s making the difference
Teenagers and low-income women were provided with free intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As per data, it worked. The birthrate among Colorado teenagers has declined 40% from 2009 to 2013 and the abortion rate has declined 42%, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The young participants to the so-called “real-life experiment”, which was conducted on a six-year interval, were not older than 25 years old. They stated that the motivation behind wanting to participate to the program was that they did not want to have a child at such an early age. Most could not realistically afford to pay for medical devices.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is now busy searching for funding to keep its successful family planning initiative alive and kicking.
“Making sure Colorado women have access to safe and effective contraception is an investment in their futures and ours,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the department.
Family planning changed the lives of 30,000 Colorado women
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment received private funding from 2009 through June 2015, and managed to provide more than 30,000 Colorado women with long-acting reversible contraceptives. Besides the drop in teen births and abortions, the state reportedly avoided more than $80 million in Medicaid costs.
“If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to”, said Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution told the New York Times.
The effort is ongoing as 275,000 Colorado women are still in need of financial assistance for family planning.
About half of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unintended
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate is significantly higher than the rate in many other developed countries. Currently, about half of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States each year — 3.4 million — are unintended.
This has in turn serious repercussion on maternal and child health outcomes, as well as broader societal and economic implications – both at household and national level.
A national public health goal
For these reasons, the unintended pregnancy rate has been set as a national public health goal. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ ‘Healthy People 2020’ campaign aims to “reduce unintended pregnancy by 10%, from 49% of pregnancies to 44% of pregnancies, over the next 10 years”.
Teenage births have been declining on national levels. But medical experts have affirmed that Colorado has managed to take family planning to the next level. Is free birth control the answer?