Preventing Unintended Pregnancies: The Impact of Publicly Funded Contraceptive Services
Athena A. Tapales, Independent Consultant
Jennifer J. Frost, Guttmacher Institute
Public funding for contraceptive services provides millions of women with necessary health care and helps many avoid unintended pregnancies. Quantifying the impact of these services is critical. To estimate impact, we began with a question: How will women’s behavior change if public contraceptive services were no longer available? Without being able to conduct an experimental study that purposely denied women publicly funded contraceptive services, we constructed four hypothetical scenarios to estimate how behavior would change. Using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, we calculated the number of unintended pregnancies, births and abortions that would arise by applying method failure rates to subgroups of women (categorized by age, marital status, race, and poverty level) given their hypothetical contraceptive behavior under each scenario. We then calculated the expected number of pregnancies occurring under each scenario and subtracted these from actual pregnancies to estimate the number averted by public services.