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Unintended pregnancy is the primary factor behind the high number of abortions that take place every year in the United States. Although abortion is safer than childbearing, many women could avoid the procedure altogether if safe, effective and easy-to-use contraceptive options were more widely available. Together with comprehensive sex education, contraceptives go a long way to prevent unintended pregnancies.
Many unplanned pregnancies result in wanted, loved and healthy children, but that is not always the case. Women faced with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to ignore the early signs of pregnancy and less likely to receive adequate prenatal care; their infants therefore run an increased risk of low birth weight and infant mortality. For some families, the emotional and economic stress of an unplanned child is overwhelming. Children who are unplanned are more likely to be abused, and children born unwanted face increased risks of poor health, poverty and neglect.
Unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are serious public health problems that could be alleviated by a national reproductive health policy that encourages personal responsibility instead of inhibiting it. Ensuring that women have access to contraceptive options that meet their health needs is essential to diminishing the significant personal and societal costs of unintended pregnancy and STDs. A national reproductive health policy must confront these problems and institute reforms that will revitalize contraceptive research and development, ensure that safe and effective birth control methods are widely available and promote public education about sexual responsibility and reproductive health.