It’s a bit of a no brainer to deduce that lack of access to effective birth control has a direct correlation to higher rates of unintended pregnancy. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute takes this information one step farther and shows how programs that provide access to birth control impact unintended pregnancies at a state level. The research shows that women who are not insured and who do not have access to Medicaid are disproportionately more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy.
From the abstract: “State unintended pregnancy rates were positively associated with the proportion of resident women who were black or Hispanic. However, these associations were almost entirely accounted for by differences in the age and marital status of women, the proportion without health insurance and the proportion receiving Medicaid. In addition, these last two measures were strongly associated with state unintended pregnancy rates after the other measures were controlled for: An increase in the proportion of women uninsured was associated with elevated unintended pregnancy rates, and an increase in the proportion receiving Medicaid coverage was associated with reduced rates.” In laymen’s terms, this means that states with higher numbers of uninsured women and women not covered by Medicaid have higher rates of unintended pregnancy.
If you follow reproductive health news, you’ve likely heard about the recent decision to NOT broaden an exemption to the Affordable Health Care act that will require insurers provide birth control at no co-pay. This is great news for women with insurance but as this study shows, it will do little to health women who don’t have insurance or who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
The researchers of the study conclude that “State programs and policies should pay particular attention to increasing support for family planning services for minority groups. Findings also suggest that insurance coverage and receipt of Medicaid among women of reproductive age deserve further exploration as potentially important mechanisms for reducing state unintended pregnancy rates.” Expanding access to birth control coverage is of vital importance if states want to reduce their levels of unintended pregnancy. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be a priority at the state level, last year a number of states attempted to or successfully cut budgets to their family planning programs after an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood at a national level failed.
If you believe all women have to right to affordable contraceptives, let your local government officials know you want funding for programs that help provide contraceptive access in high populations.