A new report concludes the number of unintended pregnancies in Iowa has dropped by eight percent since 2006. Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson has been the executive director of The Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, which commissioned the analysis.

“Iowa was chosen for this initiative because we’ve been keeping data on unintended pregnancies in our state for a couple of decades,” Pederson says. “That’s done through the University of Northern Iowa and then that information goes to the Department of Public Health, so we had a baseline on which to measure.”

The number of abortions in Iowa has dropped 24 percent since 2006 — reversing an increase in abortions earlier in the decade — and today’s report found the use of long-acting, reversible contraceptives has more than quadrupled among Iowa women of childbearing age. The Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies has been operating with a five-year grant from a private foundation.

“Educating women about better contraceptive options and then removing barriers to those options,” Pederson says. “And, of course, a big barrier is the cost barrier.”

Over the past five years the group has provided subsidies to patients at 81 different clinics for the purchase of contraceptives. Pederson and others have conducted a statewide education campaign, too, ranging from speeches to Rotary Clubs to fliers posted in hair salons. Peterson, a Democrat who served as Iowa’s lieutenant governor from January of 1999 to January of 2007, says the new data shows the work of the past five years has paid off.

“The rate of decrease of unintended pregnancies and the rate of decrease in abortions is greater than what you’re seeing in other states and what’s happening at the national level,” Pederson says.

Now that her group is ending its work, Pederson says it’s time for others to step forward to prevent pregnancies through education and subsidies for contraceptives.

“We need to keep the momentum going by being sure that there are appropriate investments in family planning services, so clinics can provide this kind of option for people,” Pederson says.

However, a primary provider of contraceptives — Planned Parenthood — has been in the political crosshairs of many Republicans. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate say they want to end all taxpayer support of Planned Parenthood, including subsidies for contraceptives.

The report on Iowa pregnancy and abortion rates that was released today was written by The Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco and a research firm that specializes in analyzing data about health issues.

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack launched the Iowa Initiative to Prevent Unintended Pregnancies in 2008. She stepped down from that post when she launched her campaign for congress. Her Republican opponent, Congressman Steve King, has criticized Vilsack’s work on the project and has promised to vote against sending federal tax dollars to Planned Parenthood.