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Horowitz: It’s Essential to Make Contraception Readily Available

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Rob Horowitz

Three-in-five non-marital births to women under 30 are not planned, according to a new policy brief jointly published by Brookings Institution and Princeton University.  The authors, Ron Haskins, Isabel Sawhill, and Sara McLanahan, also point out that the percentage of births outside of marriage has increased 8-fold over the past 50 years or so, from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2009.

The authors use these startling statistics as a jumping-off point to make their argument for the critical importance of ensuring that all women have access to readily available birth control. While many children who are a result of an unplanned pregnancy outside of marriage thrive, generally speaking, the outcomes are problematic. Children who grow up in one parent, female headed families, are “5 times as likely to live in poverty’ than children who are raised in “stable two parent families.”
The most important single thing  that can be done to  avoid what the authors of the brief call ‘early unplanned childbearing’ is to work to increase the use of birth control. This will have the added benefit of providing real budget savings since children of unplanned pregnancies disproportionately end up receiving government safety net payments from programs like Food Stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families(TANIF). For $1 spent on effective birth control methods, such as implants and IUDs, more than $7, are saved, documents a study conducted by Diana Greene Foster.

The authors highlight the potential for newer birth control methods such as Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARCs) to make a big difference. Several recent studies find that when used, these products substantially reduce the rates of unplanned births and abortions.   Since, only 7% of all women between 15 and 44 currently use LARC’s, there is tremendous room for growth.
Despite the fact that the case for doing every thing we can to expand the use of birth control is air tight,  Congressional Republicans are still working to reduce funding from the Obama Administration’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program—an evidence-based initiative that is beginning to show results. We should be providing greater funding for these kinds of programs—not cutting them.
Expanding the use of effective methods of birth control is just plain common sense. Studies such as this new one from Brookings and Princeton drive home the outsized benefits of getting this job done. And unlike some complicated problems that don’t lend themselves to straightforward solutions, in this case, the path to success is clearly marked.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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