The percentage of women who are sexually active but are not using birth control has risen since 1995, according to an in-depth government analysis of contraception and family planning use performed by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The rise is significant, with 4.56 million or 7.4 percent of women not using contraception in 2002, up from 3.13 million or 5.4 percent of women not using contraception in 1995. According to NCHS, this rise could result in many more unintended pregnancies.
Physicians and reproductive health experts who have analyzed the data point to several factors that could explain the fall in contraceptive use, including the rising cost of birth control, declining insurance coverage, gaps in sex education, fear of possible side effects, and personal beliefs concerning childbearing, the Washington Post reports. “It is absolutely unconscionable that women have a co-pay of $20 or $25 [a month] for contraceptives and men are getting off scot-free,” Jeffrey Jensen, director of the Women’s Health Research Unit at Oregon Health and Science University, told the Post. Of course, this does not include the cost of the doctor’s visit to obtain the prescription. Jensen added that for every $1 spent on contraceptive services, another $3 is saved on other government programs, including welfare, education, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“These statistics point to so many issues where government fails to care properly for American women. Contraception research must increase so that women have as many safe, inexpensive, effective and easy-to-use methods as possible to prevent unintended pregnancy,” said Dr. Beth Jordan, Medical Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Congress needs to increase Title X funding, which provides a range of reproductive health services for women and men who are at or below the poverty level, so that more women can inexpensively access federally-funded contraception services. The FDA must make emergency contraception available over-the-counter, and it must fight for it to become law for contraceptives to be universally covered by insurance companies.”
However, the study finds that the drop in contraceptive use only occurred in women over 20, and that the use of contraception by sexually active teenagers is on the rise. NCHS reports that teenagers are more likely to use contraception the first time they have sex and during subsequent sexual encounters than they were in 1995, and also that more teenagers are using injectable methods of contraception, which are highly effective.