A former First Lady is leading an effort called The Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies. Christie Vilsack, who has taught middle school, high school and college students, says it’s an issue she’s passionate about.
"For 35 years I’ve worked with 13 to 23 year olds, so everything that I’m about to do fits right in and is an extension of everything I’ve done before" Vilsack said at a press conference today in Des Moines. Vilsack, who will serve as the executive director, says the initiative will target women between the ages of 18 and 30.
"We’re 48th in the nation in terms of accessibility for women, in terms of contraception," Vilsack said. "If you think about it, we’re a very rural state. In places like Mount Pleasant, where I live, or other rural areas – you sometimes have to drive 30 or 40 miles to get to a family planning clinic and get birth control." Research suggests about half of the pregnancies among 18 to 30 year olds in Iowa are unintentional. Vilsack says she wants to change that.
"We want to do it through an educational program," Vilsack says. "we want to make sure that everybody has information about the problem, that women have information about how to access and what kinds of birth control are available to them." Vilsack says the initiative is only focused on preventing unintended pregnancies and will not have anything to do with abortion. She notes that Iowa ranks 39th in it’s public funding for family planning services and half of the counties in the state do not have family planning centers.
Vilsack says, "We need to make sure that young women know what the contraceptive options are and we need to make sure that low income women have the same access to the options for birth control that anybody else does." A 10 member board will oversee the Iowa Initiative’s operations. The initiative is being supported by a $1.5 million donation from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.