Sounds like a no-brainer. If you provide teenage girls with no-cost counseling and contraceptives, abortions and unwanted pregnancies are significantly reduced. And a new study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, proves it.
The Contraceptive CHOICE Project, from 2008-2013, offered free birth control to 9,000 women and girls in the St. Louis area, and slightly more than 1,400 were teenagers. Almost all (97 percent) were sexually active when they signed up, 48 percent disclosed previous unplanned pregnancies and 18 percent had had at least one abortion.
A whopping 72 percent of the young women chose long-acting contraception, such as intrauterine devices and implants, methods normally utilized by less than 5 percent of the teen population. Of the 560 girls deemed high-risk who chose one of these methods, not one became pregnant.
Gina Secura, a researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine and director of the CHOICE Project, commented on the findings.
“The CHOICE Project removed three important barriers for teens … education, access, and cost. The simultaneous removal of these common barriers … resulted in much lower pregnancy rates. By simply removing one barrier, we probably would not have seen the same results.”
The overall pregnancy rate for study participants was 3.4 percent, as opposed to 15.9 percent for sexually active teens in the US. Abortion rates for girls in the study were 75 percent less than their national counterparts.
Results like this are more achievable, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which provides all forms of contraception with no co-pay. Still, there are snags. Most pediatricians are not trained to insert IUDs or implants, reimbursement rates for counseling are low, and many are hesitant to get involved in the possible controversy.
What that really means, ladies, is that, more important than your bodies and health, is politics, money and religion. Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund and a pediatrics professor at Columbia University, offered his opinion.
“If it were universally adopted, that would be a great thing because we would have far fewer people at risk for unintended pregnancy. The problem is we immediately confront ideological and personal opinions whether or not even promotion of these efforts would be encouraging sexual behavior. I think you’re going to see a lot of pushback here.”
A few days ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines urging doctors to recommend long-acting reversible contraception over less effective methods to sexually active teenagers. This stance was immediately criticized by Dr. Den Trumbull, president of the American College of Pediatricians, which takes an abstinence-only position. The statistics show how effective that’s been.
As far as your taxpayer dollars being squandered on promiscuous party girls, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, unplanned teen births cost the United States nearly $10 billion in 2010. Those costs included healthcare needs, public assistance, and lost income to mothers who drop out of school or are otherwise unable to return to the workforce.
It is the goal of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the teen birth rate to 30.3 per 1,000 teens by 2015. The young women enrolled in CHOICE are already 36 percent below that goal.