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Expand chart
Data: Zapata, et al., 2021. "Need for Contraceptive Services Among Women of Reproductive Age — 45 Jurisdictions, United States, 2017–2019"; Note: Data for Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas are from 2017; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Nearly a third of women of child-bearing age in U.S. did not always use contraceptives during sexual encounters, a new CDC analysis shows, and it was often due to gaps in access to effective birth control.

Why it matters: About half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, which is linked to adverse maternal and infant health outcomes, per the agency.

By the numbers: Based on data between 2017 and 2019, 61% of women who are of child-bearing age — between ages 18 and 49 — "had ongoing or potential need for contraceptive services," meaning these women were sexually active with a male partner and were not seeking pregnancy.

  • Nearly a third of them reported they did not use contraception during their last sexual encounter.
  • About 6 million of these women were uninsured and might require publicly-funded care, showing cost may be a barrier for some women.
  • Of those who were using contraceptives, 30% — the largest group — used less effective "barrier" methods such as condoms, withdrawal or emergency contraception like the morning-after pill.
  • The second-highest use was 25% of women using "a short-acting reversible method" like a shot, pill or patch.

Zoom in: For women in some states, the risk of unintended pregnancy compared to their need for contraceptives was much higher like New York at 74% and Georgia at 85%.

  • States like Texas and Hawaii and territory Puerto Rico had the highest rates of women least likely to use any form of contraception.

The bottom line: “Improving contraception access and uptake among these women might have a large effect on meeting reproductive health care needs and reducing unintended pregnancies,” the authors write. 

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

HHS issues new protections for Texas abortion providers, patients

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images

The Biden administration's latest move to bolster support for abortion providers and patients in Texas include funding for clinics, protections for health care workers and reinforcement of legal statutes specific to pregnant people, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Friday.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has vowed to fight Texas' new abortion law, the U.S.'s most restrictive since 1973, on multiple fronts.

Sep 17, 2021 - World

Taliban replaces women's ministry with ministry of virtue and vice

Protesters march through the Dashti-E-Barchi neighborhood in Kabul, a day after the Taliban announced its new all-men interim government with no representation for women and ethnic minority groups. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Taliban on Friday rebranded Afghanistan's women's ministry with the "Ministries of Prayer and Guidance and the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice," Reuters reports.

Why it matters: When the Taliban was last in power, it maintained severe rules limiting girls' and women's autonomy, and barred them from education and work.

Sep 17, 2021 - World

UN Security Council extends Afghan mission by six months

UN Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference on Afghanistan in Geneva on Sept. 13, 2021. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council on Friday authorized a six-month extension of the UN's political mission in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The move will allow Secretary-General António Guterres to compile the necessary information to determine "strategic and operational recommendations" in light of the Taliban's takeover.