Doctors in St Louis have found a bold new way to reduce teen pregnancies: giving them medically accurate information and free contraception. At a time when many states still teach abstinence-focused sex ed, the concept may seem radical. But, as the doctors report today in the New England Journal of the Medicine, providing wider-ranging options and eliminating costs led to fewer teen births and fewer abortions. Because LARCs have much lower failure rates than the pill, condoms, or other reversible methods, teens in the Contraceptive Choice Project study had one-third fewer births than the national average — The full national rate includes both sexually experienced teens and those who have never had sex before, but nearly all the Choice Project participants were sexually active. When they did, the gap between outcomes was even more impressive:. The findings build on previous work from the Contraceptive Choice Project, a four-year study that followed the contraceptive choices of thousands of St Louis—area women.
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If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them? They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from to , while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school. The changes were particularly pronounced in the poorest areas of the state, places like Walsenburg, a small city in southern Colorado where jobs are scarce and many young women have unplanned pregnancies.
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Scott Horsley. The shelf of long-lasting birth control at Children's Hospital outside Denver. The clinic's director said having the devices on hand is crucial, so young women don't have to make a second visit. But that costs money. When President Obama spoke to the Democratic National Convention in Colorado seven years ago, he tried to call a truce in one of the nation's long-running social debates. But surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country," he said to applause. Not long after that, Colorado launched an experiment aimed at doing just that. The results have been dramatic — but efforts to expand the program using taxpayer money have hit a political roadblock. Six years ago Children's Hospital Colorado, outside Denver, and dozens of clinics around the state began focusing on long-acting forms of contraception, such as IUDs and hormonal implants.
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