According to the Guttmacher Institute, an international reproductive health research and policy organization, nearly half of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, and rates of unintended pregnancy are more than five times higher among poor women than among more affluent women. An estimated 42 percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortions, while 58 percent result in births that can have adverse effects on the lives of both the mothers and their children. Mothers who have unintended births face decreased educational and employment opportunities throughout their lives, while their children face higher rates of poverty, and poor educational, behavioral, and health outcomes.
One way to reduce unintended pregnancies is to increase access to long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC methods. As discussed in a 2015 Abell Report, “Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: A Proven Strategy for Reducing Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion in Baltimore,” LARC methods are safe and nearly 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy – far more effective than any other method of contraception – and they are effective for between three and ten years, depending on the specific method chosen. They have been endorsed by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In alignment with the citywide B’More for Healthy Babies initiative, and with funding from the Abell Foundation in October 2015, the Baltimore City Health Department has launched a new effort aimed at increasing knowledge of, and access to, LARC methods. The LARC Access Project is designed to ensure that women in Baltimore have equitable access to comprehensive family planning counseling and the most effective contraception. Towards that end, the Health Department has hired a Family Planning Coordinator who will conduct outreach to Baltimore City clinics and hospitals, offering training and technical assistance to address barriers to providing LARC methods. At the same time, the project will expand on the Health Department’s existing social marketing campaign to inform consumers about LARC methods and address misconceptions about their use. The coordinator will also track and report data on LARC utilization to assess the effectiveness of the LARC education and access efforts.