Greater access to birth control leads to higher rates of young women completing school

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  • More than 170 000 US women took part in a study to assess the advantages of family planning
  • Researchers found that access to family planning services increased young women's chances of completing high school
  • Certain US states are, however, currently considering cutting spending on contraceptives

New research published in Science Advances looked at how family planning programmes can increase young women's chances of completing high school.

The study followed more than 170 000 women for seven years. The researchers examined the data of young women attending high school in the United States. 

Hot debate around contraception

The research centred around the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a  programme launched in 2008, that expanded access to more forms of contraception in the US state of Colorado. The programme provided inexpensive forms of birth control like condoms and oral contraceptives, and more costly long-acting reversible contraception, including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants.

The study authors focused on two cohorts and compared access to family planning services and contraceptives in various US states.  

They pointed out that their research is taking place at a time when public funding for birth control in the USA is being hotly debated and certain states are banning certain forms of contraceptives.

A chance to complete high school

The study's main findings show that expansion of access to contraception was associated with a 1.66% increase in high school completion. 

The researchers observed an increase in high school graduation, representing a 14% decrease in the baseline percentage not graduating from high school before the policy change.

"Our findings indicate that improving access to contraception increases young women's human capital formation," the paper states.

Furthermore, the authors observed that from 2009 to 2015, birth and abortion rates in Colorado declined by half among teens aged 15 to 19, and by 20% among women aged 20 to 24.

"Supporting access to contraception does not eliminate disparities in high school graduation, but we find that it can contribute significantly to narrowing them. Our findings suggest that better access to contraception improves women's lives," says lead author Prof Amanda Stevenson in a press statement.

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