Publicly funded family planning clinics are a critical source of reproductive health care in the United States. One in four American women who obtained contraceptive services in 2002 did so at a publicly funded family planning clinic, according to a new Guttmacher Institute analysis in the American Journal of Public Health. Women also rely on these clinics for a range of other important services: One in three women (33%) who received HIV testing or STD testing, treatment or counseling in 2002 did so at a publicly funded clinic, as did 17% of all women who had a Pap test or pelvic exam.

An earlier study by the Guttmacher Institute found that publicly funded family planning clinic services enable 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 in the United States would be nearly 50% higher.

“In addition to providing clear benefits for women and their families by helping women avoid pregnancies they do not want and plan the pregnancies they do, studies show that family planning clinic services save $4.3 billion in public funds each year,” says study author Jennifer Frost. “Important public health benefits also accrue from the STD and other reproductive health–related care these clinics provide.”

“Trends in U.S. Women’s Use of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Services, 1995–2002,” by Jennifer Frost is currently available on the American Journal of Public Health Web site and is scheduled to be published in the October 2008 issue of the journal. The study analyzes data on U.S. women aged 15–44 from the 1995 and 2002 National Surveys of Family Growth.