New research from the Guttmacher Institute finds that, while a number of states have shown commitment and creativity in addressing unintended pregnancy, others lag far behind. The nation’s high rate of unintended pregnancy—and the enormous societal impact of this problem—prompted the federal government in 2000 to set a public health goal of reducing unintended pregnancy by 40% by 2010 and to recognize family planning as key to achieving that objective. In light of this, the Guttmacher Institute assessed each state’s level of commitment to improving access to contraception and ranked them accordingly. The analysis is particularly timely given the ongoing national debate over how to reduce unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion.

A geographically and politically diverse group of states, including California, Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama and New York, rank highest in their efforts to serve women in need of contraceptive services, allocate public funding to family planning, and adopt laws and policies that promote access to contraceptive information and services. The analysis also shows, however, that officials in other states, including bottom-ranking Nebraska, North Dakota, Indiana, Ohio and Utah, are failing the women who live there. The report concludes that both state and national policymakers must take bold new steps to improve women’s health if they are to meet the goal for reducing unintended pregnancy.

“Our nation has shown an incredible ability to marshal resources and focus public attention to tackle some of the most challenging public health problems, such as smoking and obesity,” says Sharon L. Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “By following the example of states ranging from California to South Carolina and Alaska to Alabama, which have made huge strides in improving access to contraception, we can make similar progress toward reducing unintended pregnancy in all states. These top-ranking states provide a roadmap for what others can do to improve the health and lives of their residents.”

Of the six million pregnancies that occur among American women each year, nearly half are unintended. As a result, American women experience 1.4 million unplanned births and 1.3 million abortions annually. The Guttmacher Institute analysis notes that states can play a major role in helping women avoid unintended pregnancy—particularly low-income women who are more likely than other women to experience an unintended pregnancy and to rely on publicly supported services for their contraceptive care.

Contact the Institute for a webcast featuring Sharon L. Camp of the Guttmacher Institute, Claire Brindis of UCSF and former CA Governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis

Click here for the news release in Spanish.

These fact sheets contain the most current data available as of November 1, 2005. All of the data are from research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, the U.S. Bureau of the Census or the National Center for Health Statistics.