Friday, May 05, 2006

The Fruits of Bush's Abstinence Policy?

The Guttmacher Institute is viewed as a fairly objective source of abortion-related data in the United States. It has now come out with a new study which found this:

Poor women are getting pregnant unintentionally at considerably higher rates now than in the mid-1990s, and they are giving birth to many more unplanned children and having more abortions.

In contrast, the rate of unplanned pregnancies and resulting abortions for more affluent women declined substantially during the same eight-year period, according to a new study by researchers at the Guttmacher Institute who analyzed federal data.

As a result, the study found, women living in poverty are almost four times more likely to become pregnant unintentionally than women of greater means.

"Clearly, something is changing, and it doesn't bode well in terms of unplanned pregnancies and abortions for poor women in particular," said Heather Boonstra, one of the authors of the Guttmacher report.

Guttmacher is a nonprofit group that does research, policy analysis and public education on sexual and reproductive health issues.

Based on nationwide data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and other sources, the researchers found that from 1994 through 2001, the rate of unplanned pregnancy increased by almost 30 percent for women below the federal poverty line. For women in families comfortably above poverty (now $16,000 annually for a family of three), the rate of unplanned pregnancies fell by 20 percent during the same time.

Asked what was driving the trends, the authors noted that some state and federal reproductive health programs have been cut and made more restrictive in recent years, and the decline in contraceptive use could be a result of those changes. Both have increasingly focused on abstinence rather than contraception, and some have argued that switch is also leading to reduced contraceptive use and more unintended pregnancies. Many social conservatives argue, however, that contraceptives all have limitations and that the only way a woman can ensure she will not have an unintended pregnancy is to refrain from sexual intercourse until she is ready to have a child.

That last sentence is entertaining as following the advice in it would mean that men, too, will be limited to just as many sexual intercourses as will guarantee a pregnancy to happen. It's also interesting because the woman appears to get pregnant or not all alone, by refraining from something called sexual intercourse, which you can get from a slot machine in the nearest Target. What I mean here is that it always pays to look at the way things are expressed as opposed to how they happen in reality.

And reality doesn't seem to give the abstinence-only policies of the Bush administration very high marks among the less well-off. If contraceptives are made more difficult to acquire unintended pregnancies do tend to rise. That the same trends are not being seen among the wealthier is most likely because access to contraception has not yet been made harder to those who have money.