More birth control; less abortion

Slow week or not, I cannot ignore the latest out of Colorado’s policy experiment with free LARC’s to teens and poor women.  The latest report on the results are startlingly good:

WALSENBURG, Colo. — 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.

Months ago, my public policy class asked me what one policy I would want to reduce poverty.  I suggested something like this (in all fairness, I had probably read something by Isabel Sawhill recently):

“If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to,” said Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution. She argues in her 2014 book, “Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage,” that single parenthood is a principal driver of inequality and long-acting birth control is a powerful tool to prevent it…

Teenage births have been declining nationally, but experts say the timing and magnitude of the reductions in Colorado are a strong indication that the state’s program was a major driver. About one-fifth of women ages 18 to 44 in Colorado now use a long-acting method, a substantial increase driven largely by teenagers and poor women.

If ever there should be a bipartisan approach to reducing poverty, this is it.  Alas, it’s not bipartisan.  Too many Republicans really don’t want women having what they see as “consequence free sex.”  Then there’s the abortifacient argument, but they are really no more an abortifacient than the pill.

It’s simple.  You want fewer people in poverty and fewer abortions, we actually have a magic bullet.  We need to be using it in far more than just Colorado (which is actually supposed to happen with the ACA, but as the article explains, it’s a lot more complicated).

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