Plan B: How many unintended pregnancies are there?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Plan B and Reproductive Values
Silhouette of a pregnant couple. Photo by Nina Matthews, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Silhouette of a pregnant couple. Photo by Nina Matthews, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Unrestricted access to emergency contraceptives is our topic this week. We began with the new judicial ruling that the morning-after pill be made available over the counter to anyone. We considered the reality of restricted access in low-income neighborhoods, facts about the prevalence of emergency contraceptive use, and vending machines to dispense emergency contraceptives.

But the question we haven’t discussed is:
How many unintended pregnancies are there?

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) interviewed over 12,000 women ages 15–44 to find out, and consulted surveys as far back as 1982. Here are some of the key findings. (You can get the full report here.)

Just over a third (37%) of births in the U.S. were unintended, and this overall percentage has remained about the same since 1982.

Unintended births among “ever-married non-Hispanic white women” decline during this period.

Never-married women and Hispanic women were more likely to have unintended pregnancies.

Unmarried women, African American women, and women with lower levels of education are more likely to have unintended births.

About 23% of births to teenage mothers are intended.

Over-the-counter availability of emergency contraceptives could change these statistics. But the morning-after pill is expensive, and factual information about its availability is not always available.

Are you surprised at these numbers on unintended pregnancies?

Will unrestricted access to emergence contraceptives change these numbers?

All things considered, do you support or oppose the judge’s ruling?

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