September 26 marks World Contraception Day, which highlights the many ways using modern birth control methods benefits women and their partners. Access to contraceptives allows couples worldwide to make responsible decisions about when to become parents and also helps secure women’s full and equal participation in modern society. Using any form of contraception dramatically reduces a woman’s chance of getting pregnant and either having an abortion or giving birth to a child she did not intend. The most effective methods virtually eliminate that risk.
Contraceptive use in the United States
- Women who use contraceptives have far fewer unintended pregnancies and, by extension, abortions than do nonusers. About half of all unintended pregnancies in the United States occur among the small proportion (11%) of sexually active women who were not using any form of contraception in the month they got pregnant.
- Americans understand the value and benefits of contraception and overwhelmingly support and use it. In the United States, 98% of sexually active Americans use a method at some point in their lives. But finding the right method can be challenging for many women, and using contraceptives consistently and correctly over a lifetime is difficult.
- Unintended pregnancy and abortion are increasingly becoming concentrated among low-income and minority women, who often lack access to high-quality contraceptive counseling and services. This underscores the urgent need to increase investments in subsidized family planning services through the federal Title X program, as well as by increasing eligibility for such services under Medicaid.
- Publicly funded family planning clinic services already enable U.S. women to prevent 1.4 million unintended pregnancies each year, an estimated 600,000 of which would end in abortion. Without these services, the annual number of unintended pregnancies and abortions would be nearly 50% higher. Among many other benefits, family planning clinic services also save $4.3 billion in public funds each year.
Contraceptive use worldwide
- In the developing world, unplanned pregnancies are mainly the result of low rates of contraceptive use. About 200 million women worldwide have an unmet need for effective methods of contraception.
- Worldwide, a third or more of all pregnancies are unplanned, resulting in high rates of abortions that are often unsafe when they occur in developing countries. Abortion rates are lowest in Western Europe, where effective contraceptive use is very high. In contrast, abortion rates are much higher in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, where contraceptive use is low, notwithstanding the fact that abortion in these regions is highly restricted.
- The United States and other industrialized countries should greatly increase their investment in international family planning assistance. The many benefits of such programs include better maternal health and child survival; less recourse to abortion, especially unsafe abortion; and more protection against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. Family planning assistance also fosters social and economic development and helps safeguard the environment.
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