Reproductive Freedom

U.S. Unintended Pregnancy Rate Falls 18 Percent

But unintended pregnancies remained most common among women who were poor and cohabiting



The New England Journal of Medicine is reporting that between 2008 and 2011 (most recent data) that the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate has begun falling after being stuck on a plateau since 2001. An unintended pregnancy is defined as one that is either unwanted or mistimed. The NEJM article reports:

Less than half (45%) of pregnancies were unintended in 2011, as compared with 51% in 2008. The rate of unintended pregnancy among women and girls 15 to 44 years of age declined by 18%, from 54 per 1000 in 2008 to 45 per 1000 in 2011. Rates of unintended pregnancy among those who were below the federal poverty level or cohabiting were two to three times the national average.

Across population subgroups, disparities in the rates of unintended pregnancy persisted but narrowed between 2008 and 2011; the incidence of unintended pregnancy declined by more than 25% among girls who were 15 to 17 years of age, women who were cohabiting, those whose incomes were between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty level, those who did not have a high school education, and Hispanics. The percentage of unintended pregnancies that ended in abortion remained stable during the period studied (40% in 2008 and 42% in 2011). Among women and girls 15 to 44 years of age, the rate of unintended pregnancies that ended in birth declined from 27 per 1000 in 2008 to 22 per 1000 in 2011.

After a previous period of minimal change, the rate of unintended pregnancy in the United States declined substantially between 2008 and 2011, but unintended pregnancies remained most common among women and girls who were poor and those who were cohabiting.

This is very good news since that means that more Americans are successfully making reproductive decisions in line with their plans and values. My Reason colleagues Elizabeth Nolan Brown and Stephanie Slade have reported that a number of states that are moving toward over-the-counter availability of birth control medications. This trend needs to be encouraged and sped up.