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March 02, 2006

Red States, Blue States, and Family Planning

Yesterday brought a number of articles on a report from New York's Guttmacher Institute on how the US states rank on efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies. (Go to full report; and a state-by-state ranking.)

Interestingly, both red and blue states (including New York, California, South Carolina, Alabama, and Alaska) were winners at helping women avoid unplanned pregnancies. But the reason is not too surprising: These states have taken family planning seriously, with steps such as funding programs to improve access to family planning, contraception and emergency contraception. They also know it's an economic issue as well as a social one: The report finds that every dollar spent on family planning can save up to $3 in health care costs related to a pregnancy.

Unfortunately, other states have stagnated in their efforts. From the WA Post article:

From 1994 to 2001, many states cut funds for family planning, enacted laws restricting access to birth control and placed tight controls on sex education, said the institute.

Despite some gains, the United States still lags far behind most industrialized nations in reducing abortion and teenage pregnancy. In 2002, 21 in 1,000 American women age 15 to 44 had an abortion. Although that is the lowest abortion rate since 1974, the decline has stalled, prompting fears that individuals and policymakers have lost focus on the underlying problem of unintended pregnancies, said Guttmacher President Sharon L. Camp.

The rankings were based on factors such as ease of access to contraception, state funding for sex counseling and support from state legislatures.

In the Northwest, Washington ranked 11th, Oregon ranked 9th, Idaho ranked 26th, and Montana 32nd. Idaho and Montana are two of the states where pharmacy access to emergency contraception--aka Plan B--isn't offered yet because the passage of Plan B was stalled at the Federal Drug Administration headquarters in DC. (See this article for an update.)

In good news, as we reported last month, the teen birth rate in Cascadia is at an all-time low.

Posted by Elisa Murray | Permalink

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