If a program is proved effective at reducing teen births and demand for abortions, shouldn't anti-abortion activists be the first to get behind it? The results of separate programs in Colorado and among nearly 10,000 women in a Washington University study indicate that easing access to long-range, reliable contraception can dramatically reduce unintended pregnancies.
Missouri's Republican legislators owe it to their constituents to pay attention to these examples. It's one thing to spend money and energy on high-profile anti-abortion crusades, but low-cost, effective contraception is an abortion alternative that actually works.
Colorado's teen birthrate was cut nearly in half during the past seven years while women had access to free, long-acting, reversible contraceptives, through a $25 million donation. The teen abortion rate also dropped by about half, and repeat teen births were down 58 percent. When the donation ran out, Colorado Republican legislators killed a bill to provide public funding to continue it. The legislature reversed itself this year.
Unintended pregnancies can lead to millions of dollars in state expenses for support services. No one's interest is served by killing a program proved to be effective.
There are sensible reasons to promote this approach: the quest for healthier pregnancies and healthier babies, controlling family size and ensuring that parents have the financial means to care for their children. Unintended pregnancies threaten those outcomes.
Pregnant teens often drop out of high school, further diminishing their job prospects and hurtling them into a cycle of poverty. Their ability to obtain anything beyond minimum-wage employment is dramatically reduced when they have to juggle job and mothering responsibilities at the same time.
Colorado's experience belies the argument that freely available contraception leads to riskier sexual behavior. The state found no increase in teen sexual activity or sexually transmitted infections.
Reproductive experts say long-acting, reversible contraception can be expensive, up to $1,500 for a device and insertion, putting it out of financial reach for many teens and low-income women. That's why funding is needed.
This type of contraception is available in two forms. One is an intrauterine device, an IUD, which works by making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. It is the most common form of birth control in use worldwide, but only about 12 percent of American women use it. The other type is a hormonal implant, which prevents eggs from leaving the ovaries and keeps sperm from getting to the eggs.
The medical community insists that neither form causes abortions because at no point does an egg become fertilized.
Abortion must remain the last resort for an unwanted pregnancy, and the best way to reduce that outcome is for women to have better access to effective birth control — and for the legislature to reduce hurdles for poor people to have access to it.
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