25 Years of Successes; And 2021 is Another Year For Continued Opportunities
When young people have the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child, they face fewer challenges in achieving their educational and career goals, and they are better prepared for the demanding task of raising the next generation. As I step into the position of CEO at Power to Decide, I am excited to continue building upon a long legacy of helping young people have information, access, and opportunity around reproductive well-being. In fact, this year, Power to Decide celebrates 25 years since its inception, and as we celebrate our anniversary, I want to reiterate our intentions.
Power to Decide will continue to work toward three important goals:
- Reduce rates of unplanned teen pregnancy by 50% by 2026.
- Reduce rates of unplanned pregnancy among women age 18-29 by 25% by 2026.
- Reduce racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in teen and unplanned pregnancy rates by 50% by 2026.
What work will we do in 2021 to make strides towards achieving our goals?
We will continue to address systemic inequities in knowledge about reproductive and sexual health.
Despite dramatic declines in teen births over the past two decades, 1 in 3 young women get pregnant before age 20, the vast majority of which are described by the women themselves as unintended. Further, approximately 45% of all pregnancies are unplanned.
Reproductive life planning should be a standard practice in settings influential to the lives of young people. By providing reliable, resonant, and accurate information about sexual health, we are contributing to a growing body of literature and organizations dedicated to filling knowledge gaps left by inadequate sex education. By encouraging parents and champions to talk to their young people, and providing resources to help kickstart important conversations, we are helping foster active connections, which also helps young people make informed decisions and live their best lives.
We will continue to advocate for greater access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services.
Everyone deserves access to the full range of contraceptive methods within 60 minutes of where they live. But right now, for more than 19 million women in need of publicly funded contraception, that’s not a reality. These people face significant barriers in accessing birth control. Some must travel hundreds of miles to reach the nearest clinic, some must find child care, and still others must take unpaid leave from work.
We have a long history of working in partnership with states and local communities across the US. We will continue our work to educate elected federal and state representatives on the importance of access issues. In the coming year, we will also continue to proactively support policies that impact reproductive well-being, such as expanding the ACA’s contraceptive coverage provision, expanding pharmacist prescribing of contraception, and expanding extended supply of contraceptives.
We will continue to uplift the voices of marginalized young people and listen to their needs.
The disparities in unintended pregnancy rates that persist for women of color, women living in poverty, and women in rural areas are alarming. Black and Latina people are twice as likely, and folks living at or below the poverty level are five times as likely to report an unplanned pregnancy. Young people who have been in the foster care system are twice as likely to be pregnant by age 19 than their peers. These discrepancies have nothing to do with people themselves and everything to do with the systems barriers that disproportionately impact them.
By listening to young people, we can better build a system of support that will enable them to act consistently with their decisions about if, when, and under what circumstance to get pregnant and have a child. Uplifting their voices, especially so that they may tell their own stories in their own words, is equally important to honor the history and current reality that informs how they define themselves and view their future.
I look forward to 2021, and the opportunities it brings us at Power to Decide as we begin to lead this organization into its 25th year of existence. This year will be filled with opportunities so that together we may continue our journey to improve reproductive well-being and increase agency for all young people.