Conservative Media Complain That Seattle Teens Have Access To Long-Term Contraceptive Options
Research ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN
Conservative media are attacking a Seattle program that has offered teens access to long-term contraceptive options through their schools since 2010. But long-term birth control methods such as those offered at the schools are recommended by experts as "first-line" options for teens, and efforts to provide access to such methods to teens and low-income women in Colorado have been wildly successful in reducing teen pregnancy in the state.
Seattle Nonprofit Offers Long-Term Contraceptive Options Through Public Schools
Seattle Nonprofit Provides Contraception Through City's Middle And High Schools. According to a May 27 post by Grist.org, Neighborcare Health, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that provides health and dental care for low-income people, began offering long-term reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants through city public schools shortly after the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) officially recommended them for use with teens. The group has reportedly provided such services to 500 students in six Seattle schools since beginning to offer LARCs in 2010. From Grist.org:
At the end of 2009, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists formally recommended long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) -- IUDs and hormonal implants -- as the most effective ways for teen girls to avoid unintended pregnancy, and Seattle's public health department quickly decided that they should be available in school-based clinics. (These clinics, which have also provided other forms of birth control to students since the mid 1990s, are funded by a city-wide Families and Education Levy, which voters have supported since 1991.)
Neighborcare Health, which runs nonprofit medical and dental clinics in Seattle for low-income and uninsured families and individuals, was the first organization to step up to the plate and provide LARC placement services in certain Seattle public high schools and middle schools, where it sponsors the school-based health centers -- and within just a few months of the ACOG recommendation, the first Seattle public school student got a Nexplanon hormonal implant through the program.
LARCs, because they're meant to last for so long, are the most expensive forms of birth control available. But free, in-school LARC placement is made possible in part by Take Charge, a Washington State Medicaid program that's specifically targeted toward minors seeking contraceptive services. Because of Take Charge, girls under 19 who don't want to use their parents' private insurance to get birth control have a way to get contraception in school at no cost.
Now, it's as easy for a Chief Sealth student to get an IUD as it is to get a Coke - actually, easier, because pop is banned in Seattle schools. [Grist.org, 5/27/15]
Conservative Media Lament That Teens Have Access To Birth Control At School
Fox's Outnumbered Fearmongers About Students Receiving "Invasive Birth Control." On the July 6 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, the co-hosts discussed news that some Seattle public schools offered teens access to long-term contraceptive options by lamenting that this allows "girls as young as eleven to access invasive birth control without their parents' OK" in the same schools where "most students can't get a sugary soda or a candy bar." Fox host Jedidiah Bila deemed the program to be "an overreach in schools," while Andrea Tantaros agreed that "this is not the business of the school" in which to be involved. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/6/15]
Breitbart.com: Seattle Schools Offering Teens LARCs "Free Of Charge And Free Of Parental Consent." In a July 5 post, Breitbart.com fearmongered that students in many Seattle public schools could recieve long-term birth control options like IUDs "free of charge and free of parental consent." The post went on to complain that such devices are "associated with serious side effects" and "frequently act as abortifacients." [Breitbart.com, 7/5/15]
Townhall: "No Soda For You, But Here's An IUD." In a July 3 post, TownHall.com reported that schools were giving kids access to "sex and contraceptives" through "taxpayer-funded IUD[s]":
But in Seattle, it's even worse. In at least 13 public schools in the area, where kids are banned from even having soda or candy, middle and high school-aged girls can get a taxpayer-funded IUD without their parents' consent.
Just so we're clear: Chocolate and sugar? Way too unhealthy. Sex and contraceptives? Totally fine. And since Washington's law states that "every individual has the fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions," there's nothing parents can do about it. [TownHall.com, 7/3/15]
FoxNation: "Schools Implant IUDs In Girls As Young As 6th Grade." A July 5 article promoted by Fox Nation and originally posted on LifeNews.com claimed that schools were "implant[ing] IUDs in girls as young as 6th grade" and suggesting that the method wasn't safe:
The IUD is known as a long acting reversible contraception, and may even act as an abortifacient. So, a young teen in Seattle can't get a coke at her high school, but she can have a device implanted into her uterus, which can unknowingly kill her unborn child immediately after conception. Or, if she uses another method, she can increase her chances of health risks for herself, especially if using a new method. [FoxNation, 7/5/15; LifeNews.com, 7/2/15]
Washington State Protects Reproductive Privacy Of All State Residents. Despite conservative media's claim that Seattle was overreaching by allowing teens to access birth control without their parent's consent, the state protects residents' "fundamental right of privacy" when it comes to reproductive decisions. According to the policy, "Every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control." [Washington State Legislature, 11/5/91]
Medical Experts Recommend Long-Term Contraceptives As First Choice Options For Teens
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Long-Term Contraceptive Options "Should Be Offered As First-Line" Choices For Sexually Active Teens. In a September 20, 2012 press release, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that long-term contraceptive options like IUDs and implants "should be offered as first-line contraceptive options" for teens. Explaining that the methods are "the most effective reversible contraceptives" available, ACOG noted that they "eliminate the problem of inconsistent use common with other" methods that often results in unintended teen pregnancies (emphasis added):
Implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) should be offered as first-line contraceptive options for sexually active adolescents, according to new guidelines issued today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College). Both the implant and the IUD are the most effective reversible contraceptives for preventing unintended pregnancy and abortion in teens and adult women.
The contraceptive implant and IUD are not only top-tier contraceptives based on their effectiveness (with pregnancy rates of less than 1% per year), but they also have the highest rates of patient satisfaction and continuation of all available reversible contraceptives. These long-acting methods eliminate the problem of inconsistent use common with other contraceptives that can lead to unintended pregnancy. Complications from IUDs and implants are rare, and both can be safely used by adolescents, including immediately after giving birth or after an abortion, according to The College. [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/20/12]
Program Offering Free Long-Term Contraceptives Was Wildly Successful In Reducing Teen Pregnancies In Colorado
New York Times: "Colorado's Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is A Startling Success." As The New York Times explained in a July 6 article, Colorado's efforts to prevent pregnancy by providing teens and low-income women free long-term contraceptive methods had "startling" results. The birthrate for teens in the state dropped by 40 percent after the program was implemented, and the abortion rates for the group also fell by 42 percent (emphasis added):
Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest ever real-life experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?
They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate for teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.
"Our demographer came into my office with a chart and said, 'Greta, look at this, we've never seen this before,' " said Greta Klingler, the family planning supervisor for the public health department. "The numbers were plummeting." [The New York Times, 7/6/15]
Mother Jones: Colorado's Contraceptive Initiative Is "America's Most Effective Anti-Teen Pregnancy Program." According to a February 11 article by Mother Jones, The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a program that provides long-term contraceptive options for women and teens such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants at reduced costs, is "America's most effective anti-teen pregnancy program." As a result of increased access to LARC methods, the state's teen birth rates "leapfrog[ged] 11 spots in the national rankings" and saved them "between $49 million and $111 million":
Seven years later, the program has been, by most measures, a huge success. Teen birthrates are dropping across the country, but Colorado's has fallen faster than the nationwide average, allowing it to leapfrog 11 spots in the national rankings. Between 2010 and 2012, the state estimates, 4,300 to 9,700 births to women on the state's Medicaid program that would have otherwise occurred did not--saving Medicaid between $49 million and $111 million. The state's abortion rate has also cratered, falling 42 percent among women ages 15 to 19 and 18 percent among women ages 20 to 24 between 2009 and 2012. [Mother Jones, 2/11/15]