Poverty and Contraception

The New York Times began a recent article as follows:

Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?

They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.

Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution has argued in her 2014 book, “Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage,” that single parenthood is a principal driver of inequality, and that long-acting birth control is a powerful tool to prevent it.

The program in Colorado was originally funded by a grant from the Susan Buffett Foundation, but as I have previously noted, that grant has now run out.

The state’s health department has estimated that every dollar spent on the long-acting birth control initiative saved $5.85 for the state’s Medicaid program, which covers more than three-quarters of teenage pregnancies and births. Enrollment in the federal nutrition program for women with young children also declined by nearly a quarter between 2010 and 2013.

It works. It saves tax dollars, and it saves young women’s futures.

So of course, the Colorado legislature has declined to fund the program. The only hope for continuation of the program is the Affordable Care Act–aka Obamacare.

As I said in my previous post, if these lawmakers were really “pro-life,” they would support programs that substantially and demonstrably reduce the incidence of abortion.



  1. Dear successful free contraception program:

    You are disrupting our superiority/judgmentalism play. We cannot blame THOSE people for their problems if you prove that improving their circumstances allows them to make better choices.


    The Deserved

  2. Lack of education and unplanned pregnancies go hand-in-hand; always have, always will. Free birth control does NOT encourage sexual activity; that has always gone on and always will. Free birth control will encourage safe sex with all it’s options. Pregnancy is but one preventive measure; look at southern Indiana and the epidemic of HIV due to the lack of testing previously provided by Planned Parenthood clinics who also provided counseling and birth control BEFORE abortion. The Colorado test appears to be successful; it is a medical, socialogical opportunity to improve health care for women and control unwanted pregnancies. This is why we will never see it in Indiana; it is successful 21st Century progress.

  3. If those lawmakers were really pro-life they would support more than just this program. They would support education, renewable energy, clean water, protection of endangered species, affordable housing, scientific research and a superstition free society.

  4. The Republican Party and their fellow traveling Bible Thumpers bottom line do not want Birth Control unless it is their “faith based” approach of no sex. Prevention of pregnancy is not enough for the Bible Thumpers they must impose their own beliefs on woman.

  5. Louie; regarding the Bible thumpers and their “no sex” approach to birth control, do you suppose they understand the definition of the term “begat”? They should also try to count the number of times it is referred to in their favorite reading material. I do believe the Bible should be used in the sense of the Bible as Literature. It might give even children a sense of where it belongs in their life, or if it belongs there, and that our laws should not be based on the Bible any more than on “Gone With The Wind” or “Catcher In The Rye”.

  6. Bible reading requires literary skills. The good portions therein must be delineated from the trash (as in any good library). Seems to me that some people suck it all in and others throw it all away. Meanwhile there still remains some great readings in scripture, form texts about love, grace, justice, peace, understanding, etc. What often happens is that readers buy the culture that went along with the text, when there is not a chance they would accept that kind of culture!

  7. Years ago, I worked in a congressional office. Our caseworker was constantly amazed by the stories from adult women with children who equated superstitious practices with contraception. The one I remember most thought placing the garbage cans on the right side of the walk prevented pregnancy. She’d done that consistently and couldn’t understand why she kept getting pregnant.

    For as long as I can remember, a significant portion of politicians who oppose abortion also oppose contraception. They think they can legislate morality and abstinence. Pregnancy is perceived as the justified ‘punishment’ for sexual activity. Unfortunately, preaching abstinence has worked about as well for the rest of the population as it has for Bristol Palin.

    Contraception is the ounce of prevention that’s worth several pounds of cure. As your article notes, it prevents abortions, prevents single parenthood, prevents a lifetime of poverty for teenage mothers and their children, and saves government money too.

    Nearly 100% of the population supports contraception, despite the number of politicians who don’t. If we really wanted to eliminate virtually all abortions, we’d have a Planned Parenthood clinic in every neighborhood to provide healthful contraception to all women of child-bearing age who want to PLAN when to have children. (By the way, government has not funded abortions for many years.)

  8. Why don’t we ask Patricia ‘I’m better than you, just ask me’ Miller? She is an RN, a state senator, and never fails to punish women for not being her highness. BTW, at what point does the licensing board draw the line with a licensee who proposes legislation that uses medical devices to punish and humiliate women trying to access abortion services, which, last time I checked, were legal? Why isn’t that malpractice?

  9. Truth from truth.

    It absolutely amazes me how long the GOP has gotten away with offering only an unending stream of problems without even the hint of a solution. As politics is the business of solutions, how can that be?

    How can an institution pretend to be a political party when they don’t even play at being capable of solving problems? Listen to the litney of Presidential pretender’s recitals. Illegal immigrants, the Middle East, global warming, the economy, jobs, health care, transparency. Nothing concrete or specific. Only endless whining.

    What most amazes me is that their minions don’t mind. Or apparently even notice.

    This will go down in history as a period of bizarre behavior on the part of the greediest generation.

  10. Prior to Reagan becoming President, the Marion County Health & Hospital Corporation had federally-funded family planning clinics that provided annual well woman exams and contraception was provided at no charge. One of Reagan’s first acts as President was to pull funding for this program. I was employed by H&H Corporation as a public health nurse then. I don’t ever recall any patients requesting a referral for an abortion, and this program saved lives as well as tax dollars. The Health Department also sent RNs to visit, on referral, new mothers who needed assistance because they were young and/or inexperienced, to help them learn infant care and to provide referrals for well baby care, the WIC program and other social programs. I saw a commercial recently for Goodwill, in which it announced that it now sends nurses to assist new mothers, so I must assume there is no longer funding for this service that Marion County used to provide. Therefore, it is no surprise to me that the child abuse/neglect and infant mortality rates have climbed, that teen pregnancies are not under control and abortion is an issue. Again, why don’t they look to what succeeded in the past, and what succeeded in Colorado? I agree with the writer who criticized Senator Patricia Miller, R.N., for failing to take leadership on these issues.

  11. Someone needs to publish a compilation of our senators/representatives with their positions on various matters and priceless quotes, so the people will understand just how primitive some of these people are. A couple of years ago, a representative from Lake County was talking about her experience in the legislature and reported how surprised she was at the positions that some of these people take and to hear that they genuinely believe that stuff. Some of them are really ignorant and awful individuals, yet they keep coming back and frustrate any hope that things will improve. If it were not so sad, it would be funny.

  12. Thank you Sheila Kennedy for this truly substantive and important site that invites
    intelligent discussion on such a vital and growing issue in our country.
    We admire your never-ending work that we have followed for over 48 years.
    Susan Leitz Cahn

  13. Enter the elephant:

    As we pen this drivel, elements are operative which negate our greatest hopes and highest ambitions. Take a stroll though a Walmart and then come back. Consider all the plans and dreams of better schools and good teachers. Tell yourself that the privileged Hamiltonians we
    so abhor are us. Then we can know how miserably we have fail them. How we ravaged the earth so they could have the nicest car at the prom. Now we can meet them, and they are us.

    Now we cannot. Will they be able the put out the fires we started in order to give them the world? Will they be able to save it?

    (Hint Hint) I don’t think they can through the political system.

  14. Natacha; I worked at Health and Hospital during the 1970’s in their Purchasing Department. From there I moved to the Admit/Release Office at General Hospital. I saw only a few abuses of the public assisance system during that time; I saw life-saving help given to those who came through the doors. I once watched what could have been an episode of “ER”; a large apartment building downtown had an air conditioning malfunction resulting is deaths and comas involving many residents and first responders. Streets around the hospital were blocked and ambulances were speeding into all entrances from all directions. Some emergency responders collapsed and needed medical assistance. This was our county hospital at the time which turned no one from it’s doors; is it still with the beautiful, privately owned Eskenazi Hospital? I don’t know.

    From Genral Hospital I went to the Division of Community Services, a division of Mayor Hudnut’s office. We monitored all multi-service, senior and health centers in Marion County to maintain compliance with federal guidelines to continue receiving federal funds. I had already been scheduled, with three other DCS employees, to attend and be part of the annual 3-day Community Services Conference (have forgotten the actial title). It began on Wednesday, the day after Reagan was elected president and was thrown into a panic because we all knew what was coming…and it arrived full force. I shared a motel room with the director of one of the multi-service centers; the director of another multi-service center came to our room after dinner, we spent most of the night trying to come up with suggestions and possible solutions for the loss of fedral money we knew was coming. I monitored 4-5 centers; I met and worked with some incredible people whose lives centered around helping “their people” in the neighborhoods were they were located. All of them maintained all federal regulations to assure they would not lose funds to help “their people” who were so in need. One counselor at an east side center took abused women and their children into her home, at her expense, till shelter could be found for them. She was a formerly abused wife with seven – 7 – children and a limited income. Reagan cut funds “across the board”; he “gave no quarter”, his intent was to leave no survivors. Most of the centers here are still in operation, I have no idea of the quality of the services they provide other than one health care center – not satisfied with it but stuck with it. The lack of available contraception is but one part of poverty but it is often the first step of a continuing and expanding need for assistance. There will always be those few who abuse the public assistance system; till there is a way to purge them we must accept the fact and work around it.

    Earl; I have no idea what your “drivel” is saying other than an anti-Democratic, anti-Walmart attempt at being profound. You, like Republicans, offer no alternatives or solutions. Politics is what we have; politics is what we have to work with, against, around and through. Help us, you are an intelligent and knowledgeable man, someone who should, by now, be past believing “The Prophet” is reality.

  15. The elected are so far removed from practicality they prove over and over that there can be no direct solution to a problem, only endless lecturing, photo ops, and public righteousness. I believe it’s only purpose is to keep their faithful engaged in an argument that goes nowhere and avoids any solution that would kill the straw men they use to get elected.

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