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“The Facts Are Staring Us In The Face”: GOP Lawmakers Vote To Increase Unplanned Pregnancy Rate

In early July, Colorado’s success with free long-acting contraceptives was trumpeted by news media. The New York Times called the results “startling” and “stunning.” “Colorado’s free birth control experiment could change the world,” ravedSFGate, a news website.

But the news was not so surprising.

After health authorities provided free contraceptives such as intrauterine devices to low-income girls and women over six years, from 2009 to 2013, the out-of-wedlock birth rate among teenagers dropped by 40 percent. The abortion rate among that group declined by 42 percent, said the Times, using figures from Colorado officials. And they reported similar declines among unmarried women younger than 25 and without high-school diplomas — a group likely to be mired in poverty if they started motherhood too soon.

Aren’t those results exactly what you’d expect when young women are given easy access to a reliable and simple-to-use method of birth control? Isn’t that what advocates of women’s reproductive health have been preaching for decades?

Here’s the surprise: The Colorado state legislature has refused to provide $5 million to renew the program, despite its dramatic results. Apparently, its members were cowed by opposition from the usual coalition of right-wing religious groups, such as Colorado Family Action. (The initial funding was provided by an anonymous donor.)

“We believe that offering contraceptives to teens, especially long-acting reversible contraceptives, while it may prevent pregnancy, does not help them understand the risks that come with sexual activities. We should not remove parents from the equation,” Colorado Family Action said in a statement.

Allow me to interpret the statement from CFA: If teenage girls have sex, we want them to get pregnant and suffer for it. This sort of political falderal makes me want to bang my head on my desk. If we want to reduce unintended pregnancies — which leads, of course, to a reduction in abortion rates — we know how to do it: Provide free contraception, preferably long-acting and reversible methods such as IUDs. Yet, the very right-wingers who denounce abortion rights refuse to support widespread contraceptive use.

While the figures from Colorado are dramatic, rates of teen pregnancy have been falling for decades. The teen pregnancy rate in the United States reached its peak in 1990 and has been dropping since then.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit that works to advance reproductive health, the decline, at least since 2003, has “little or nothing to do with teens’ delaying sex. … Instead, the decline in teen pregnancy in recent years can be linked to improvements in teens’ contraceptive use.”

In the late 1990s, reproductive experts started to notice that unintended pregnancies had dropped, especially among teenagers, as they began using long-acting birth control methods such as Norplant, which was implanted under the skin, and Depo-Provera, administered through injection. The advantage lies in ease of use: Women don’t have to remember to take a daily pill.

Still, even with the successes of recent decades, the United States has a higher rate of unintended pregnancies — more than half are unplanned — than virtually any other industrialized country. And 40 percent of those end in abortion, according to Guttmacher researchers.

Cultural and religious conservatives insist that teaching teens to abstain from sexual activity is the answer. But the states most likely to insist on that approach — my home state of Alabama is one — have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Alabama has the 15th-highest rate of teen pregnancy, according to federal statistics. Mississippi, equally conservative and even poorer, has the second.

If you still don’t believe it, take a look at Bristol Palin, daughter of Tea Party darling Sarah Palin. Once a spokesperson for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, she pledged after her first child not to have sex again until she married. She is now pregnant with her second child as a single mother.

The facts are staring us in the face: We know how to prevent unplanned pregnancies and the poverty they so often drag in their wake. We know how to dramatically reduce the rate of abortions. It’s simply crazy that we refuse to do what works.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary, 2007; The National Memo, July 11, 2015

July 13, 2015 Posted by | Colorado Legislature, Contraception, Teen Pregnancy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Safe And Effective”: All Women Should Have Quick, Confidential Access To Emergency Contraception

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration took an important step for millions of women by moving emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter and making it available to people ages 15 and older with valid identification.

As a doctor, I know that this is good news and a great first step. Emergency contraception is a safe and effective form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex. By reducing barriers, this announcement will help more women prevent unintended pregnancy.

At the same time, the Obama administration said this week that it is appealing last month’s federal ruling that would have eliminated the age restriction completely. Citing scientific research and evidence, the judge removed the age and point of sale restrictions that made it harder for all women to access emergency contraception. That ruling should stand.

Unprotected sex sometimes happens – a condom breaks or non-consensual sex occurs. When it does, all women, regardless of their age, need access to emergency contraception quickly and confidentially.

Remember, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is (but if you are already pregnant, it won’t work). That’s why removing unnecessary barriers that delay access can help a woman prevent an unintended pregnancy.

The research shows that emergency contraception is safe for women of all ages, including young people. Research also indicates that teens understand how to use emergency contraception and understand it is not intended for ongoing, regular use. It doesn’t increase risky behavior either.

A recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that sexual activity is exceedingly rare among the youngest adolescents. However, when sex does occur among teens under 14, it is often non-consensual and contraceptives are not used.

So despite some of the myths out there, emergency contraception is a safe, effective way to prevent pregnancy for all women, regardless of age (though, as someone who talks to parents everyday about health care, I also know it’s crucial that parents have conversations with their children about these issues).

The good news is that this week’s decision makes it a whole lot easier for women to get access to emergency contraception. More should be done to remove all barriers and unnecessary hurdles. While the teen birth rates have declined significantly in the last two decades, they are still high, including in states that lack access to medical providers and preventive health care.

That’s why, as a doctor, I know it makes good scientific and medical sense to expand access to emergency contraception to all women.

 

By: Deborah Nucatola, MD, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Debate Club, U. S. News and World Report, May 3, 2013

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Birth Control, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

President Rick Perry’s America: No Country For Women

Rick Perry has been governor of Texas since before I was old enough to vote. As a native Texan born in the millennial age, I put Rick Perry in the same category as a cassette player or an AOL subscription — something that has seemingly always been around, but has long since lost its purpose. Coming of age as a woman in Rick Perry’s Texas is sort of like living in the wild, wild west, like an Annie Ovary of women’s health, dodging old men wielding vaginal probes and vaccine mandates. With a governor who has a women’s health record that’s a bumpy country mile long possibly becoming our next president, what would it mean for women across America? Allow me.

First order of business in the Perry presidency would be the creation of the Department of Interior Contraception, or DIC. DIC would oversee approved contraceptive devices under Perry’s watchful eye, the top item on the list being the most widely accepted, reliable option available to God-fearing Americans these days: abstinence. Now, while it’s true Texas has the 3rd highest teen birth rate in the country and also true that a 2005 study found teens in Texas were actually having more sex after undergoing an abstinence-only program, Rick Perry still stands by the practice. Why? Not because there are actually any studies backing him up but “from my own personal life,” Perry told the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith in an interview earlier this year. Comforting, isn’t it? Rather than President Perry making decisions based on studies and figures, the free world will instead hinge on the regularity of his wife’s cycles.

But don’t take Rick Perry’s word for it. Starting in 2012, women (and their partners — suddenly that cowboy vote doesn’t sound so good, does it gentlemen?) will get their very own chance to practice an abstinence-only approach when the recent law that requires health insurance companies to cover birth control will no doubt be rolled back by President Perry.

That brings us to the question of how Perry plans to punish women who don’t fall into line with his tried and true abstinence methods. After all, without threat of punishment, I think it’s safe to say Perry will probably be the only person in America abstaining from sex. For the sinners, Perry has already started a little pilot program right here in Texas.

The state now requires mandatory transvaginal sonograms for women who are 8 to 10 weeks pregnant and seeking abortions. The bill, which Perry declared a piece of “emergency legislation” during the last legislative session, requires the doctor to describe the fetus and play audio of the heartbeat prior to the abortion procedure. President Perry’s version of this bill will include an amendment to play Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” during the procedure.

Alas, if all of this has you feeling down, ladies, don’t fret. Think of all those cute babies we’ll get to have. But in Rick Perry’s America, you may want to home school. Texas ranks first in the nation in adults without high school diplomas. The future also doesn’t look so bright for all those precious little ones when it comes to health insurance and potential jobs: Texas boasts another first in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance and, in 2010, Texas tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers employed in minimum-wage jobs. No wonder Governor Perry wants Texas to secede. It’d sure make us look less stupid.

At a speech given to the United for Life group in June, Perry bragged about Texas’s recently-passed sonogram law and told attendees, “In Texas we have pursued policies to protect unborn children whenever possible.” And you can bet your left Fallopian tube that, if elected, he’ll continue to do the same for the unborn children of America. I just hope there’s a Plan B pill for what happens when all these children grow up — because President Perry, just like Governor Perry, certainly doesn’t plan to care for them.

After all, where Rick Perry comes from, that’s women’s work.

By: Rachel Farris, AlterNet, August 19, 2011: This essay originally
appeared
at MeanRachel.com.

 

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Insurance Companies, Jobs, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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