General Question

democraticrepublican's avatar

Aside from a lack of comprehensive sex education, why don't more people use birth control in the United States?

Asked by democraticrepublican (47points) February 24th, 2011

People cite the need for comprehensive sex education mixed with “easy access to birth control” when they talk about reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. I understand the need for education. But what does “easy access” to birth control mean? You can already go to Wal-Mart and buy a pack of condoms for a few dollars, right?

Aside from needing more sex-ed, why exactly does America have such a high unintended pregnancy rate compared to other countries?

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40 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

More people are using birth control, according to the Guttmacher Institute. It’s probably because of more education and easier access to contraceptives.

Of course, there are still states that try to keep teens from accessing contraceptives. Texas and Utah require teens to have parental consent in order to be able to purchase them. It is those with the least experience who are most likely to have unprotected sex.

How many of you went to ask your parents to sign so you could have contraceptives just before you wanted to have sex the first time? Can you imagine doing it? Very few, I’ll bet. There’s a ways to go on the access front, I’ll tell you that for free.

cynicaldeath's avatar

“Partying” is such a popular event throughout United States, and College students attend to parties once a week. I believe that a lot of unintended pregnancies come from drunk sex after parties. In my college,which is in Canada, the dorms provide free condoms in a box at the hallway whenever there is a big party going on. I believe that’s what they mean by easy access because I don’t see any easier access than this

MissAnthrope's avatar

1. We have a lot of poor people.
2. We have no national health plan.
3. When you struggle to pay bills and feed yourself, $50+ a month extra can be a real blow, financially.
(condoms and birth control pills don’t seem cheap when you have meager funds)

Then there’s the usual.. carelessness, laziness, ignorance, or whatever.

Response moderated
TexasDude's avatar

In light of everyone’s criticisms in this thread, I offer the suggestion that a lot of people who do use birth control do so improperly. Many, many people are unaware that you are supposed to wash your hands before putting on a condom (after foreplay) and after removing it. There are other proper techniques that people just don’t do correctly because they think it “throws off their groove” or whatever. I think this may have an effect on birth control statistics. I could be wrong.

democraticrepublican's avatar

@blueiiznh Because America has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies in the developed world. Why are people not buying condoms?

JLeslie's avatar

Minorities especially don’t use condoms from what I understand. Some of it is religion, some macho bullshit, some embarrassment to buy them, some lack of acceptance sex is going to occur and being unprepared. Someone once said on fluther that among the poor they don’t really understand you can plan pregnancy or preventing one. So some of it is there needs to be a cultural shift. Children need to want a future without a child born too soon. Many communities being a single parent is normal (I do not mean divorced parents, I mean children born to single parents) and what age they have the child seems to not be part of the equation if single parent is normal. Also, for all very young teens, I think the first time or two is probably unprotected, although I have never seen stats on that. Once they come to the realty they are now sexually active, they might take action, but I think it doesn’t sink in at first.

YoBob's avatar

I saw a great bumper sticker the other day:

“If you drink, please don’t park. Accident’s cause people!”

laureth's avatar

If you make one of those virginity pledges, you think you’re never going to need contraceptives anyway, so you don’t try to have them around. And then when you give up (or forget you made the pledge), there’s nothing there to use.

coffeenut's avatar

They have some Sex Ed, They have Birth Control, What they don’t have is “Self Control” It doesn’t help that our society is geared towards sex

bkcunningham's avatar

@democraticrepublican what is your opinion on why exactly America does have such a high unintended pregnancy rate compared to other countries? Why aren’t they buying condoms are using the condoms and birth control handed out free at state run health departments?

democraticrepublican's avatar

@bkcunningham I don’t have an opinion yet. I am seeking resources to help develop an opinion. At the moment, all I know is that people who would like to reduce the amount of abortions in this country wish to do so via sex education and easy access to contraceptives.

I keep hearing “easy access to contraceptives” and I’m thinking: Since when is it hard to get contraceptives? Last I checked, you can buy condoms at any 7–11. Why should we need to fund something like birth control methods with taxpayer money if people are being irresponsible and not using it?

coffeenut's avatar

@democraticrepublican I think “easy access” means free..

democraticrepublican's avatar

@coffeenut Then who is paying for it? Not me.

democraticrepublican's avatar

@coffeenut Why would I want to put my taxes toward something that people are not using?

This study by the CDC ( surveyed WHY people weren’t using birth control. 6% of women responded that they were not using birth control “because they or their partner did not want, or like, to do so”

Uh…okay? So basically, your fault if you get pregnant.

“Substantial percentages of both men (14%) and women (9%) reported they were not using birth control because they did not think they or their partner could become pregnant”

This can be solved with thorough sex education.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m a female in my mid 40’s and in all the years I’ve known men, not one of them has ever said they like to wear condoms. All of them have admitted to having sex without them more times than with. I have had sex fewer times with a condom wearing partner than with. I’m in the USA and have grown up feeling men expect women to take care of contraception, most of them assume if you agree to have sex then you must already be using pills, few men ask until after the sex. Aside from that, many women feel stuck with birth control that has side effects while men enjoy all the pleasure they want, maybe some women rebel by just taking their chances by going without?

coffeenut's avatar

@democraticrepublican Your taxes pay for it whether you want them to or not….

Also all the sex education in the world can’t fix lazy stupid people with no self control….

I know a couple on welfare that have 5 kids and no they weren’t just laid off….They have been on it for years…and are proud of it….... So ya

deni's avatar

Some people don’t like the way condoms feel….which is fine, because if you use an alternate form of birth control, you don’t need to wear a condom….but Republicans seem to think that only the rich should be able to afford birth control and prevent pregnancy so….unwanted births will probably skyrocket in the next 5 years if they get their way!

democraticrepublican's avatar

@deni I don’t think only the rich should afford birth control, clearly condoms only cost a few bucks at any convenience store.

coffeenut's avatar

@deni I have a WACKY CRAZZZZY idea…. Ready? Ok here we go….

People WAIT until the can AFFORD to BUY birth control products BEFORE having sex….AHHHH The Craziness…lol

MissAnthrope's avatar

It is pointless to try and expect people to not have sex. That will never happen. Better to acknowledge how human beings actually behave and try to work with it.

Seelix's avatar

Condoms are free at the local health unit, and at university clinics. There’s no excuse not to use them. But, like @MissAnthrope said, people won’t abstain, and they won’t always use condoms either. I think a lot of young people have the “it’ll never happen to me” attitude, unfortunately.

12Oaks's avatar

I could only speak for myself, and will address the main question. The reason I don’t use birth control is because I choose not to.

lazydaisy's avatar

I wonder, in addition to many of the reasons previously mentioned, how much religious affiliation has to do with it.
The number of Catholics in America, for example, is around 67 million people or so.

I’m not saying that this is completely a reason. Just wondering what part it plays. As a high schooler in a primarily Catholic public school I know we were given books in ‘health’ class that explained in technical detail how sex worked, but the pages on contreception were removed from the books.

YoBob's avatar


“but Republicans seem to think that only the rich should be able to afford birth control and prevent pregnancy…”

Oh please! It never fails to amaze me how some can attribute almost anything to the vast Republican conspiracy on behalf of the “rich”.

The Republicans are not against public funding of condoms because they believe that birth control should only be available to the wealthy, but rather because they don’t see any particular reason why anyone should be expected to foot the bill for someone else s condoms any more than they should be expected required by law to buy somebody else beer.

YoBob's avatar

Well, I’m certainly glad to see that sign acknowledges that it is the parents responsibility to educate their kids about “down there”.

JLeslie's avatar

@lazydaisy A relative of mine volunteered as a big sister with Catholic charities. When it became apparent the girl was considering having sex with a boy, my relative discouraged her, but then asked her if she does it, does she know how to protect herself from getting pregnant or sick. The girls response was she wouldn’t use anything because that is like a double sin, bad enough she was having sex. I am not saying the Catholic church specifically suggest this idea, but this is how she thought it in her head.

laureth's avatar

@YoBob – In a perfect world, all parents would be easy to talk to, and willingly take up their responsibility to thoroughly and factually discuss “down there“with their kids. But this is not a perfect world, and parents are imperfect too. That doesn’t stop kids from needing reliable information in a safe atmosphere.

YoBob's avatar

@laureth – I totally agree. However, supplying reliable information is quite a different thing from expecting me to foot the bill for free condoms on demand.

laureth's avatar

@YoBob – Better condoms now than welfare later. Much cheaper.

GracieT's avatar

@laureth, WELL SAID! :o)

YoBob's avatar

Or perhaps we could move towards social expectations that promote personal responsibility for one’s actions rather than those that foster the idea that society will always rush in to mop up your mistakes no matter what.

You are correct that condoms are rather inexpensive, and it is for precisely this reason that I think it is far from a vast right wing conspiracy on behalf of the the “rich” (in an attempt to price the common man out of the ability to engage in safe sex as a previous poster suggested) to suggest that I and the rest of the tax paying public should not be expected to foot the bill for free on-demand distribution.

IMHO, if you don’t have fifty cents a go round to prevent STDs and unexpected babies then perhaps you should be giving serious consideration to matters other than a recreational roll in the hay.

YoBob's avatar

@laureth and @GracieT – I’m rather curious what you would think about tying state sponsored birth control to welfare benefits. Should those receiving state sponsored living assistance be required to take a medication that would render them temporarily sterile each time they pick up their check? Such a system, IMHO, would be likely to prevent more pregnancies than free condoms.

laureth's avatar

YoBob, I see two flaws with that plan. First one, they generally don’t “Pick up checks” for very long. For instance, you can get food stamps for three months, but then you have to wait another 33 months before getting them again. I don’t have such exact numbers on “welfare,” but it was reformed under Clinton, and you can only spend a few years on it total, unless you’re disabled or something.

However, my second point: Many folks do just fine supporting themselves (i.e.,wouldn’t be “picking up checks” so they wouldn’t receive your state-sponsored birth control), and then they have a kid. That’s what shifts the balance from “doing OK” to “needing help.” For example, my husband and I do OK now. But if we had a kid, we’d need to either (1) use daycare, or (2) one of us quit our job to watch the child all day. The loss of that income (either earned or paid out to daycare) would tilt that balance for us. As a result, we can’t afford to have a kid. But the way the Right wants to make the laws go, should any woman become pregnant, it would be very hard for her to terminate if she can’t afford to care for another l’il person. Forced birth = need for welfare, pretty often.

It would be nice if people were always totally rational, and no poor people ever got pregnant, right? But life is messy like that. And you could leave poor families to “mop up their own mess,” so they will Learn The Hard Way and be Properly Punished for Having Kids, but assistance is generally more for the good of the kids than the good of the parents. Kids didn’t ask to be born, but they do ask to be fed.

GracieT's avatar

You explained that in a great way. When I was a kid I’d always wondered why people wouldn’t just do things according to what I wanted. As an adult, the blinders have come off. I realize now that I don’t know everything, and the sooner I accepted that and worked with everyone to solve problems instead of just analyzing things and not doing anything about them the better off things would be. If we would all quit arguing and worked together, instead of trying to convince everyone else that we know better, the world would become an easier place for all of us. OK, that probably will never happen, but I can dream!

YoBob's avatar

@laureth Firstly, I would like to say what a pleasure it is to share discourse with one so eloquent. However, you seem to have moved the conversation from the statement that many folks believe that supplying free condoms on demand is something that the taxpaying citizen simply should not be forced to fund to a diatribe about how “the right” wants to make it difficult for you to terminate a pregnancy if you wish.

While there are, of course, many on “the right” who believe that life starts at conception and abortion = murder, there are also a pretty significant number (myself included) that believe your decision to terminate an early term pregnancy is a decision that is between you, your doctor, and whatever moral framework you have convinced yourself to adhere to.

What is at issue is not availability of birth control, nor is it whether birth control is a “sin”, nor is it about your beliefs regarding abortion or your perceived ability to afford children. What is at issue is who foots the bill. I, and many others who are “right leaning” (whatever the heck that means) do not feel that it is the responsibility of uncle sugar to take care of your every need from cradle to grave, nor do those who share that particular philosophy, as I previously stated, believe that they should be forced to purchase on demand birth control any more than they should be forced to purchase liquor, sports cars, or movie tickets.

You also go on to equate the suggestion that people should be expected to take personal responsibility for their actions with a desire to “make them learn the hard way” or “being properly punished”. It is quite a large leap to go from “I don’t think I should be forced to pay for your condoms” to painting a picture of those who hold that belief as having a hidden agenda that seeks to properly punish those who accidentally get pregnant. Frankly, I believe that making such a leap is quite beneath your obvious mental capabilities.

As for your personal decisions, I applaud your willingness to carefully consider the impact that having a child would have in your life. Alas, it is ironic that it is people like you who need to be contributing to the maintenance of the gene pool who are the most likely to avoid diving in. (There is a great movie named “Idocracy” that explores this very topic,)

I started to write a long diatribe about how my wife and I were in a similar situation as you and your husband before we were blessed with a surprise. Not an “accident” (because that implies that something horrific happened) but a “surprise”, which implies a great unexpected gift. However that would be quite off topic. I’ll be happy to share a bit more of the personal perspective by PM if you care to hear it.

laureth's avatar

While I won’t drag this any further off topic after this, I will say that my “leap” is based on articles like this. I’d be glad to take it to PM if you want, YoBob, and I’d be glad to hear your story.

nicobanks's avatar

Easy access means providing barrier methods (like condoms) for free and meds (like the pill) for a very low cost. As others have said, there are a lot of poor people.

There are also a lot of angry, hopeless, destructive people out there. If your life sucks, if you don’t feel valued, if you don’t value yourself or others, why bother with birth control?

There are also a lot of people out there who use drugs irresponsibly. Drugs lower your inhibitions, your awareness of practical matters… birth control is forgotten.

Finally, condoms spoil the mood. I’m not saying that’s a valid reason to have unsafe sex, it certainly isn’t! But let’s not pretend: there’s nothing like a live cock penetrating you without warning, just as a natural move in the course of events. This, combined with a youthful reckless attitude, results in unsafe sex.

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