Teen pregnancy is down 40% in Colorado, and the reason is unbelievably simple: birth control.

Over the past several years, teen pregnancies and abortions in Colorado have been on a sharp decline.

The New York Times highlighted the state's success story, in which the teen pregnancy rate dropped by 40% and abortion rate among teens dropped by an astounding 42%.



Data from Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

Why the sudden drop? It's simple, really: The state made long-acting birth control free to those who wanted it.

Since 2008, Colorado has enabled more than 30,000 individuals to obtain long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), typically intrauterine devices (IUDs) thanks to a state program called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative.

Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, IUDs are one of the most effective forms of reversible birth control, with a failure rate less than 1%.

It should come as no surprise that when you make extremely effective contraceptives available to women who don't currently want to have children, unplanned pregnancies and abortions decline.

Sounds like a win-win scenario for just about everyone in the political spectrum, right?

Whatever your opinion on abortion rights, I think most people would agree they'd rather not need one. By their very nature, unplanned pregnancies are, well, unplanned. In reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, this program was able to chip away at the number of women needing access to abortion services.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

But what about the cost of providing free birth control? There's some good news on that front, as well.

Fewer unplanned pregnancies also means fewer parents who aren't financially able to care for a child; as a result, the state and federal government actually save money as the number of people in need of aid programs declines. A Guttmacher study determined that for every dollar spent on family planning programs, the government saves $7.09 on other programs. Which means Colorado's program pays for itself and then some.

The state estimates that just between 2010 and 2012, anywhere between 4,300 and 9,700 unintended pregnancies were avoided, saving the state somewhere between $49 million and $111 million in Medicaid funds.

Making birth control accessible is just one way to reduce unintended pregnancies.

Colorado's program was effective, but it's not the only way proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies. One method that's been shown to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases is simply being armed with the knowledge that comes along with comprehensive sex education.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Studies show that abstinence-only education is not an effective way to reduce teen pregnancy.

As of July 2015, just 18 states and the District of Columbia require that sex education courses provide information about contraception. 37 states require that these courses cover abstinence (with 25 of those states mandating that courses stress the importance of abstinence).

Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs haven't been shown to drastically affect the age at which students become sexually active. In fact, studies show that students who only received abstinence sex education were more likely to not use contraceptives and were more likely to end up with unintended pregnancies and STDs.

Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images.

All things considered, preventing unintended pregnancies is simple.

It's as easy as arming people with knowledge (comprehensive sex ed) and resources (contraceptives) to stave off unintended pregnancies. As we've seen, denying these resources to teens and adults proves to have a much more painful, expensive social and financial cost. Reducing those pregnancies will take a mix of both knowledge and resources.

As Colorado waits to find out the fate of its wildly successful program, it's helpful to look back on how simple the solution can be and why it's worth investing money and effort toward an effective public good. We should all be able to get behind that idea.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.