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.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

Sir David Attenborough has one of the most recognized and beloved voices in the world. The British broadcaster and nature historian has spent most of his 94 years on Earth educating humanity about the wonders of the natural world, inspiring multiple generations to care about the planet we all call home.

And now, Attenborough has made a new name for himself. Not only has he joined the cool kids on Instagram, he's broken the record for reaching a million followers in the shortest period. It only took four hours and 44 minutes, which is less time than it took Jennifer Aniston, who held the title before him at 5 hours and 16 minutes.

A day later, Attenborough is sitting at a whopping 3.4 million followers. And he only has two Instagram posts so far, both of them videos. But just watch his first one and you'll see why he's attracted so many fans.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


There are very few people who have had quite as memorable a life as Arnold Schwarzenegger. His adult life has played out in four acts, with each one arguably more consequential than the last.

And now Schwarzenegger wants to play a role in helping America, his adopted home, ensure that our 2020 election is safe, secure and available to everyone willing and able to vote.

Shortly after immigrating to America, Schwarzenegger rose up to become the most famous bodybuilder in history, turning what was largely a sideshow attraction into a legitimate sport. He then pivoted to an acting career, becoming Hollywood's highest paid star in a run that spanned three decades.


Keep Reading Show less

One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

Keep Reading Show less