April 23, 2015 — More school-based health centers should provide contraceptives, which have been a major driver of recent declines in the teen pregnancy rate, according to a new Guttmacher Institute analysis, The Hill reports.
The analysis, written by Guttmacher Director of Public Policy Heather Boonstra, found that the teenage pregnancy rate has declined to 57 per 1,000 women, marking the lowest rate in 40 years. It said the decline "is overwhelmingly due to improved contraceptive use and use of more effective methods." However, the analysis also found that only 37% of school-based health centers provide male condoms, while only 26% provide oral contraceptives.
According to the analysis, one major obstacle to such contraceptive access is that state or local governments prohibit about half of the roughly 1,900 school-based health centers in the U.S. from providing contraceptives. However, the figure marks an improvement compared with 1998, when state and local governments prohibited nearly 80% of such health centers from providing birth control.
In addition, the analysis countered objections to teenagers being able to access birth control at school-based health centers. For example, it noted that there is no evidence that access to contraceptives increases the percentage of teenagers who engage in sexual activity (Sullivan, The Hill, 4/21). Further, the analysis said parents often are involved in oversight and planning at school-based health centers (Boonstra, Guttmacher Policy Review, Winter 2015).
The analysis urged Congress to provide more funds for school-based health centers. According to The Hill, the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) provided federal funds for the centers in 2010, but the funding expired in 2013. The analysis cited a bill (HR 2632), by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), that would have provided such funding through 2019.
Boonstra said in a statement, "School-based health centers can play a key role in addressing teen pregnancy, and failing to provide contraceptive services on-site, for whatever reason, is self-defeating." She added, "We know contraception has been the main driver of the steep decline in the U.S. teen pregnancy rate, which is why it's so important to give students easy access to the information and services they need" (The Hill, 4/21).