A recent survey by the Guttmacher Institute outlines some sobering details about unintended pregnancy in the United States: as of now, a whopping 49 percent of the 6.7 million pregnancies per year in the United States are unintended.
This rate is significantly higher than the rate in a huge number of other developed countries (probably because we are preposterously terrified of sex ed as a nation and because conservative lawmakers have made a habit of attempting to shutter women's health services with horrific glee and enthusiasm). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2020 campaign hopes to reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancies to 44 percent within the next 10 years — but is reproductive health advocacy affecting everyone equally?
Sadly, and predictably, the answer is no. Although the unplanned pregnancy rate has remained essentially flat in the general American population since 1994, it's increased substantially among poor and low-income women:
In 1994, the unintended pregnancy rate among women with incomes below the federal poverty line was 88 per 1,000 women aged 15–44; it rose to 120 in 2001 and 132 in 2006—a 50% increase since 1994. At the same time, the rate among higher-income women (those with incomes at or above 200% of the poverty line) fell from 34 in 1994 to 28 in 2001 and 24 in 2006—a 29% decrease.
This disturbing trend is likely to continue, since women with incomes below the national poverty level are more vulnerable to restrictions on access to reproductive care and low- or no-cost contraception. It's crucial that publicly-funded family planning services exist in order to help all women avoid (or plan f0r) unwanted pregnancies — as the survey notes, without such services the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would double.
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