Friday, May 05, 2006

Rich Girls, Poor Girls

We talked recently about what a young woman is supposed to do if she gets pregnant. It's a tough problem. You can raise the baby, put the baby up for adoption or you can get an abortion. The school district shows no interest in discussing this highly relevant topic in the sex-ed classes, probably for political reasons. Whatever, you know how it is.

The federal government funds abstinence-only education. Teach kids that they need to just say no, don't tell them what to do if yes shows up for the party. Some people in our comments section have been trying to make a point that the result of Ignorance Education is a decrease in STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Turns out, the story is a little more complicated than that. the New York Times::
Contraception use has declined strikingly over the last decade, particularly among poor women, making them more likely to get pregnant unintentionally and to have abortions, according to a report released yesterday by the Guttmacher Institute.

The decline appears to have slowed the reduction in the national abortion rate that began in the mid-1980's.

"This is turning back the clock on all the gains women have made in recent decades," Sharon L. Camp, the president of the institute, said.

Among sexually active women who were not trying to get pregnant, the percentage of those not using contraception increased to 11 percent from 7 percent from 1994 to 2001, the latest data available, according to numbers Guttmacher analyzed from the National Survey of Family Growth, a federal study.

The rise was more striking among women living below the poverty line: 14 percent were not using contraception in 2001, up from 8 percent in 1994. Better-off women — those who earned more than twice the poverty rate — were also less likely to use contraception: 10 percent did not use any in 2001, up from 7 percent in 1994.

The number of white women not using contraception increased to 9 percent from 7 percent; Hispanic women not using it increased to 12 percent from 9 percent; and black women not using it increased to 15 percent from 10 percent.

The rate of unintended pregnancies, which had declined 18 percent from the early 1980's to the mid-1990's, has leveled off since about 1994. That reflects a diverging trend: among poor women, the rate rose 29 percent, but among better-off women, it declined 20 percent.

The rate of unintended births — unintended pregnancies carried to term — rose by 44 percent among poor women from 1994 to 2001, but declined by 8 percent for wealthier women. Use of Contraception Drops, Slowing Decline of Abortion Rate

OK, I wasn't going to mention this, but I got an email recently from a recent MCPS graduate, he'd gone to Whitman, who reads the blog and has been following the controversy here. He was talking about some things an MCPS school nurse had said:
Pregancies that come to nurses' offices are predominantly in the lower-income school districts. Girls visibly pregnant are predominantly found in lower-income school districts. At Whitman I don't recall ever seeing pregnant girls. At other schools like Gaithersburg there are around 6 in a grade. Whitman girls (and Churchhill, etc) get pregnant too, but they get abortions.

Interesting, don't you think? The girls in the less well-to-do neighborhoods are bound by religion and by not being as good at navigating the system (I have a suspicion that these two things have more than a correlational connection).

I remember when my kids were in grade school -- this is a dirty little secret -- there were some teachers in each grade who were better and some who were worse. Every summer, the white moms would go over to the school and meet with the principal, find out where their kids were going to be assigned, and give their preferences. So in the fall when school opened, you had one teacher with a room full of brown and black kids, and another teacher with all the white kids. It's just a matter of knowing how to work the system.

If the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, I think everybody knows that some girls will figure out how to get their abortions. It might require some paperwork, a doctor's sign-off, whatever, those that know how to work the system will not have a problem getting around it.

Look, the number of poorer women who had babies increased by 44 percent -- nearly half -- at the same time it dropped by eight percent for the girls from wealthier homes. That's no fluke, it's not noisy data, that's a phenomenon.

And check this out -- even though both rich and poor are less likely to use contraceptives, poor women have a lot more unintentional pregnancies, while better-off women have a lot fewer. Whaddya think?

Back to the NYT:
Guttmacher and other groups that work to prevent unintended pregnancy credit growing contraceptive use starting in the early 1980's for the big drop in the abortion rate, which is now at its lowest since Roe v. Wade established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973.

Slightly more women use contraception now than did in 1982, when 12 percent did not. But the decline in abortion seems to have leveled off. While the abortion rate fell an average of 3.4 percent annually in the early 1990's, it declined an average of just 0.8 percent from 2000 to 2002.

The researchers blamed reductions in federally and state-financed family planning programs for declining contraceptive use. They called for public and private insurance to cover contraceptives, and for over-the-counter access to the so-called morning-after pill, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after sex.

"We need to really go back to, and redouble, our efforts to ensure that all women are able to obtain contraceptives," Heather D. Boonstra, another author, said.

Of three million pregnancies in the United States each year, half are unintended, according to Guttmacher, and half of those are carried to term. About 14,000 women who carry the pregnancies put the children up for adoption, and 1.3 million have abortions.

I'm not going to get into the controversay about abortion, these are just some numbers. Spin 'em how you want. I think everybody would agree it's best if pregnancy doesn't happen by accident, especially to unmarried young girls. How you prevent that is a different matter. This survey suggests that knowing about contraception helps prevent unintentional pregnancy.

Some people think it's enough just to tell young people not to have sex. Mmm, sure, teenagers are nothing but obedient. They live to do what some teacher tell them to do. Whatever the causes, some get pregnant, some have abortions, some have the baby, some keep it, some don't. Every year for a long time, fewer and fewer had abortions, but that trend is leveling out.

People need to know how to control their reproductive systems. It's not just a personal matter, all of these things are reflected in the economy, in the law, in taxes, in everything. Unwanted kids know what the deal is. Yeah, you can tell teens not to have sex, but as Conrad Birdie said, "'If you feel it here -- Well, then you're gonna be honestly sincere." Sincere for the moment, anyway, teenagers are not exactly the best at making good decisions that take into account their life-trajectories. So if they're going to "feel it here," they need to know how to make sure they aren't starting something they can't deal with.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


You've connected the higher birthrate among poor women to lack of knowledge of the system.

One factor you left out is access to abortion services. In 2000, 87% of counties in the US had no abortion provider. There are fewer providers, and more counties with no provider, in the south and midwest than in the northeast and on the west coast. In the second half of the 90s, the number of abortion providers fell in 38 states and in the District of Columbia. Poor women are often limited to those services, or those systems, in their own geographical areas. Well-to-do women can go where the services are, and they do.

These numbers come from a Guttmacher Institute study, published here

May 07, 2006 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well-to-do women can go where the services are, and they do."

Well-to-do women are better able to hire all kinds of hit-men, not just those who kill children. It doesn't mean the government should provide hit-men services for poor women.

May 09, 2006 12:54 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, I am tempted to delete the kinds of inane comments you are making this afternoon.

No one has asked the government to "provide hit-men services" to anyone. It's your right to think of abortion as a form of killing, but this is about the lamest way to say it, esp for a guy with a red-white-and-blue "support the troops" ribbon hanging from the steer horns on the front of your car. It's silly to call a doctor a "hit man."

I've got the feeling this isn't a decision you're going to need to face anytime soon, which makes it much easier for you to judge people who do face these situations. If only moral decisions were really that easy for those who have to make them!


May 09, 2006 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just in case anyone's confused (and cares), I'm pretty sure there's no "Support the Troops" paraphenalia anywhere on my car.

For the record, I've never been too crazy about war. I was personally opposed to Gulf War I, not finding the defense of one Arab dictatorship that was invaded by another Arab dictatorship really a good reason to squander American time, treasure and life. The country to whose rescue we came forbade the Red Cross from displaying its emblem and wouldn't let American soldiers take their Bibles out of their camps. Didn't really sound like a friend of the U.S.

I guess we had no choice to engage in Gulf War II but I'd love to see a solution and end to the violence as soon as possible.

Ridiculous to compare a battle defending Iraqis from Baathist terror to the taking of the innocent lives of unborn children.

May 09, 2006 3:36 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Ridulous to describe the invasion and occupation as "a battle defending Iraqis from Baathist terror."


May 09, 2006 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadaam and his boys terrorized the people of Iraq for years. His minority Baathist party is still doing it to try to regain power from the majority coalition of Kurds and Shiites. The best scenario now is to let the country split into three small states.

May 09, 2006 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I've always believed the best thing for Iraq was for it to split into three states. That's their choice, though."

Yeah, I've said that from the beginning and, except for the Sunnis, I think everyone in Iraq would prefer that. They simply have gone along with pressure from the U.S.. We don't want to hurt the Turks or help the Iranians but we should be more concerned with stability, democracy and self-determination.

Brownback- I think he'd clean up in an election against Hillary (or Al Gore, ROFL and LOL).

I'm actually an anonymous commenter and your blog continues to present this option. Is there any name by which you'd prefer not to be identified?

May 10, 2006 10:41 AM  

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