We need better access to birth control

Avery Conrad, R1 News Editor

Forty-six years after Roe v. Wade guaranteed women the right to a safe abortion, the decision is still being disputed by pro-lifers across the country. However, the same politicians that denounce abortion as murder are often the same ones that make it nearly impossible for women to access safe birth control and prevent comprehensive sexual education in schools.

What many politicians fail to acknowledge is that making abortion illegal does not prevent abortions from happening; it criminalizes women for making a choice and only prevents abortions from being safe. According to a study published in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 20 million women worldwide undergo an unsafe abortion every year. Approximately 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions.

Politicians want to get rid of abortion, but overlook the prevention of unwanted pregnancy in the first place and would rather make abortion illegal and put the lives of thousands of women at risk.

Over the last 23 years, the federal government has funded over $2 billion in “abstinence-only” programs, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The institute also stated that 18 states require sex ed to include the importance of only having sex within marriage, and only eight states require that sex ed is culturally appropriate and unbiased.

This means that teens are not being exposed to all accurate information they deserve to know about sex, as it is being ommitted from their education. Sex ed is potentially life changing, yet kids are still having sex without knowing the risks.

In West Virginia, for example, 68.9 percent of teens have had sex by their senior year of high school according to the Power to Decide campaign. Although sex ed is required in West Virginia, it is not required to be age appropriate or medically accurate. As a result, over half of the pregnancies were unplanned for women 15 to 44 years old.

Despite the fact that 85 percent of adults agree that birth control is a basic part of women’s health care, 19 million women in the United States live in what is considered a “contraceptive desert,” meaning they lack what is considered reasonable access to a clinic where they can get birth control.

Luckily, more people have started to realize that preventing unplanned pregnancies is beneficial to society. In 2015, the decrease in teen pregnancy rates saved over $4.4 billion (Power to Decide).

Healthy People, an initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has also added better alternatives to help with family planning, adolescent health, access to health services and more. This includes birth control, pregnancy testing and counseling.

While this is all a step in the right direction, education systems in schools and teens themselves need to do more to make sure that young adults are receiving the proper education on sex and all the issues surrounding it, such as STIs and the possibility of unplanned pregnancy. Abortions will always happen, whether they are legal or not, and whether they are safe or not.

Only accurate education and access to birth control for all will be able to prevent women from having to make a choice about how to handle an unplanned pregnancy.