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Editorial: Improved Contraceptive Access Helps Combat Income Inequality

July 17, 2015 — Conservative lawmakers' "intransigence on reproductive rights isn't simply a women's battle, but it is [low-income] women and families who bear the brunt of its misguided policies -- policies that deepen the cycle of generational poverty," a Battle Creek Enquirer editorial states.

According to the editorial, "[s]tudy after study demonstrates that access to family planning and contraceptives dramatically reduces the number of [unintended] pregnancies, which in turn reduces the demand for abortions." For example, the editorial cites the Choice Project study, conducted in St. Louis, Mo., which found that providing no-cost contraceptives to more than 9,000 women resulted in "significant declines" in the rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion. Meanwhile, "Colorado has achieved remarkable reductions in the rate of teenage pregnancy through a similar initiative," while the state's rate of abortion among teenagers declined 42% between 2009 and 2013, the editorial states.

The editorial notes that private funds for the Colorado program have expired, and conservative lawmakers in the state are opposing efforts to publicly fund the program, claiming contraceptives will increase sexual activity among teenagers. However, the editorial states that while "there is little or no correlation between sexual activity and access to contraception ... the correlation between [unintended] pregnancy and income is indeed strong." For example, the editorial cites a 2008 study that found unintended "pregnancies were five times as likely for those at or below the federal poverty level." The editorial continues, "A recent study by the Brookings Institution dug deeper and found, again not surprisingly, that access to contraceptives, and not sexual activity, was the differentiator."

The editorial calls on state and federal lawmakers to develop their policy objectives based on "science -- and demonstrated successes," such as the study "findings, and the stunning success in Colorado" (Battle Creek Enquirer, 7/15).