Free birth control

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I recently attended both Gov. Gary Herbert's summit on health and a conference to discuss intergenerational poverty with legislators. Both discussions centered on paving the way toward healthy Utah kids and families.

We all agreed on the importance of a good education. Advanced education leads to higher-paying jobs and correlates with overall health and longevity.

I left both meetings wondering why access to birth control wasn't forefront in the discussion. As the recent study of St. Louis women demonstrates, access to birth control dramatically reduces unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies cause many teens and young adults to drop out of school and for many, the data tell us, it seals their fate.

Building a healthy community means educating our youth about reproduction, making birth control available and helping girls and women plan their pregnancies and stay in school. Some Utah health districts have very high unintended teen pregnancy rates, and one in 20 Utah teens living in poverty is pregnant.

The first order of business of the 2013 Utah Legislature should be supporting programs that offer free birth control to low-income patients and health plans that provide no-cost birth control.

Heather Stringfellow Vice president of public policy Planned Parenthood Association of Utah

Salt Lake City,