There's No Controversy

At a time when policymaking is too often a fact-free zone paralyzed by partisan politics, efforts in Arkansas and Mississippi show what is possible when policymakers focus on facts and work together across the aisle to do what is in the best interest of young people and their state.

These two states have some of the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S. and some policymakers are trying to change that. The National Conference of State Legislatures describes how elected officials in Mississippi, motivated by data showing that 7 in 10 teen pregnancies are to 18 – 19 year olds, worked together to enact legislation to address unplanned pregnancy among college students.  

Similar statistics and an interest in college retention, prompted a bipartisan duo of Arkansas legislators to work together to introduce a similar bill to address unplanned pregnancy among Arkansas college students. As Jennifer Ludden recently reported for NPR,  both bills “had bipartisan support and were amazingly uncontroversial.” Judging from the reaction of college students in Arkansas, reliable and relevant information about sex, pregnancy prevention, and birth control is both needed and appreciated in college, especially since many of them didn’t get such information in high school or at home.

I hope policymakers paralyzed by fighting about sex education or contraception, or afraid to take action for fear of repercussions, will be inspired by the leadership of Democratic and Republican elected officials in Arkansas and Mississippi, and the positive reaction (and lack of pushback) to their efforts.  They can also take courage from the fact that birth control is simply not controversial with the public. A recent Gallup poll found birth control to be highly acceptable (by 89% of Americans), topping a list of morally acceptable issues. 

These bills in Arkansas and Mississippi are a few examples of innovative, proactive policies some states are beginning to adopt, with bipartisan support, that will empower more young people to decide if and when to get pregnant. Over the coming months, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy will highlight more such positive policies to show what is possible.  After all, if they can do it there…

Authored by: Andrea Kane

Andrea Kane is the Vice President for Policy and Strategic Partnerships at The National Campaign.  She is responsible for The National Campaign’s public policy program, as well as forging strategic partnerships with a range of public and private sector organizations.  During her time at the Campaign, she has helped launch The National Campaign’s work with community colleges, youth in foster care, and with Latino communities.

From 2001 through 2008, she was also affiliated with the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families in various capacities. Before joining The National Campaign in 2001, Andrea served at the White House Domestic Policy Council as a special assistant to President Clinton. She has also worked at the National Governors’ Association, and at the state and local level in California, Texas, and Virginia.

She studied Government at Smith College, received a BA from Cornell University and an MPA from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

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