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Teen birth rate down by 55 percent in King County

KUOW Photo/Kate Walters
King County executive Dow Constantine warns against de-funding Planned Parenthood

Teen birth rates fell by 55 percent in King County between 2008 and 2015, according to officials.

County Executive Dow Constantine credits expanded access to long-lasting birth control and preventive care, as well as greater insurance coverage.

He said, along with the decrease in teen birth rates, the county also saw a drop in unintended pregnancies and abortions.

But Constantine said this progress could be at risk.

He said a push from Congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and de-fund Planned Parenthood could reverse the progress made in the past few years.

"Congress must acknowledge that when they attack Planned Parenthood, they attack successful public health programs, they attack the majority of Americans. And we will fight any attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood or the Affordable Care Act.”

“We will not go back,” he said.

Constantine added that there’s no organization able to step in and pick up the slack if Planned Parenthood is de-funded. More than 28,000 people receive care at Planned Parenthood clinics in King County.

People like 23-year-old Hanna Devine. After getting into a serious, committed relationship, Devine decided to get a long-acting contraceptive device implanted in her uterus, commonly known as an IUD.

She called multiple providers and was told it would be an 8 month wait. After the election, Devine decided she could not wait any longer and called a Planned Parenthood clinic.

She said having access to a long-acting contraceptive has given her peace of mind.

“It’s not in the back of my mind that I could run the risk of having a family before I’m ready to. I’m able to focus on myself and my future and prepare for when I am ready to have a family if that time does come, and to know that I am in control of that decision,” Devine said.

“We understand that a woman’s ability to plan for herself and her family sets her up for success – and it can offer a life-changing path away from poverty. Eliminating that pathway is intolerable. Adding barriers that limit choices for all women is unacceptable,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands.

She said de-funding her organization would be detrimental to women, and to the nation as a whole.

Officials also expressed fears over plans to repeal the ACA. The ACA requires that insurance plans cover birth control as well as other reproductive health services. It also ensures women are not charged more for coverage than men. 

But critics say the ACA is a failed policy. And repealing it doesn't automatically mean that women's health will suffer. 

"Support in Congress for funding of community health centers for example is as strong as ever. So [King County Executive Dow Constantine] is trying to protect the ACA but I don't see why he has to drag these other services into it. So I think funding for women's health will continue, even when congress passes some form of health care reform," said Paul Guppy, vice president for research with the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank.

Congressional Republicans are gearing up to propose a replacement for certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

Constantine said he is committed to taking action to prevent decisions at the federal level having negative impacts on women seeking family planning services and reproductive health care.

Year started with KUOW: 2015