Contraception program is an Iowa success

April 1, 2014 | 3:33 am

By Quad-City Times

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Iowa has charted a course that has reduced unintended pregnancies and abortions.

New data shows the number of abortions dropped 24 percent from 2007 through 2011 and unintended pregnancies are down 8 percent.

That course ends this year with the lapse of a five-year, $35 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. The funding put accessible, affordable, long-term birth control in the hands of thousands of Iowa women. The contribution helped establish the Iowa Initiative to encourage women to use them. These simple, safe, implanted devices provide months, even years of birth control, but cost more up front than daily birth control pills.

The grant also paid for extensive education, including training for nonmedical professionals, who can be more effective than hospital or clinic staff at reaching low-income Iowa women.

The grant was intended to learn how access to long-term, reversible birth control would affect birth and abortion rates. The results, independently confirmed, showed Iowa’s unintended pregnancy rates dropping far more than surrounding states without this grant-funded program. The abortion rate declined even more.

These results affirm that although the grant has expired, Iowa lawmakers should shift funding to build on the success of this plan. The price of long-term, reversible birth control is a fraction of the human and financial costs of the unintended births and abortions they prevent.

Contraception funding is a touchy issue for state legislators. That’s why this program is so effective. It doesn’t force any woman, employer or insurer to do anything. It simply allows Iowa women to choose.

Allowing Iowa women to choose for themselves also seems to be a controversial issue for some lawmakers. So perhaps it’s better to consider this as a legislative choice: Do lawmakers want to continue Iowa’s dramatic decline in abortion, or are concerns over contraception more important?

We commend the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the Iowa Initiative for showing Iowa a path to dramatic reduction in abortions. We encourage lawmakers to allocate the funds to stay on this path.

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