Population Matters

Congress Needs to Put the CDC’s Latest Report on its Summer Reading List

July 27th, 2012

Since Congress funds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maybe it should take a moment to read the latest CDC report on unintended pregnancies and births.

According to a new report released yesterday from CDC, 37% of all live births in the United States are from pregnancies that were unintended at the time of conception. The unintended pregnancy rate, when including all pregnancy outcomes (live birth, miscarriage, still birth, and abortion), was estimated to be even higher at 50%. That means that half of all pregnancies in the United States are not intended at the time of conception.  The statistics are even more frightening when you look at unintended pregnancies among teens:  87% of all births are unintended at the time of conception.  The CDC reported a decrease in unintended births among non-Hispanic white women who were married or who were formerly married, but the growth in unintended births among unmarried women kept the overall unintended pregnancy rate unchanged.

The new data show that “large and persistent differences are seen in unintended births by income and education.” Women with a college education have a 7% unintended pregnancy rate, while women who did not complete high school have a 35% unintended pregnancy rate.  Income was also a significant factor. Women making 400% or more over the poverty line have an unintended pregnancy rate of 9%, while women below the poverty line have an unintended pregnancy rate of 38%. Not surprisingly perhaps, 60% of women with an unintended pregnancy did not use contraception.  It’s disturbing, however, that the number one reason they gave for not using contraception was they did not think they could get pregnant. These results demonstrate that lower-income women, in particular, need comprehensive sexual education and improved access to family planning services and information.

Unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives did not get the CDC’s message.  Last week the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the FY2013 funding bill and slashed support for family planning and sex education in the schools.  The bill, which was passed out of the subcommittee on a largely party line vote, would almost certainly increase unintended pregnancies and births.

As approved by the Subcommittee, the 2012 funding bill would:

  • Eliminate Title X, which provides funding for family planning clinics serving low-income households;
  • Defund Planned Parenthood and any of its affiliates, unless the organizations certify that they will not perform abortions or provide any funds to any other entity that does; and
  • Provide only $20 million for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention, $89 million below the President’s request, while providing $20 million for unproven “abstinence only” education programs.

These cuts would have a huge impact on women across the country and on the unintended pregnancy rate. More than 5 million women and men access family planning and related services every year through Title X funded clinics. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008 Title X-supported centers helped prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 432,600 unintended births and 406,200 abortions.  Planned Parenthood clinics alone serve 1 in 5 women at some point during their lives. How does Congress expect these low-income women to access family planning services and information?

A giant cut in evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs would constitute a giant step back in efforts to curb unwanted teen pregnancies. Similarly, elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning clinics would deny many low-income women the access they need to family planning services and information.

Tell Congress to halt the assault on contraception and reproductive health.  Ask your elected-representatives to fully fund Title X, Planned Parenthood, and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative!

Originally posted on Care2 by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy on July 26, 2012.

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