A new federal rule that requires employers to provide free birth control coverage met fierce opposition in February from faith-based employers, even after President Barack Obama announced a compromise on the rule. Photo by Zhang Jun/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com.

The news: In February, President Barack Obama announced “accommodation” to faith-based organizations by directing their health insurance companies to cover the costs for the new requirement that contraception be covered under insurance.

Behind the news: Minority teens are more likely to have unprotected sex than white teens in Illinois, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit aimed at reducing pregnancy rates in single youth.

In 2009, the latest year for which the data are available, at least 30.5 percent of Latino and 29.8 percent of African-American teens did not use condoms or birth control pills, while at least 6.4 percent of white teens did not.

Pam Sutherland, vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood Illinois, said many African-American women cannot afford contraceptive care because they are underinsured.

The out-of-pocket price for birth control can cost anywhere from $700 to $1,500 a year, and Planned Parenthood often has to subsidize that cost for young people in need of contraception, she said.

She added that minority teens may not be getting education about contraception at home or at school, causing them to make uninformed decisions.

“So many young women and men come into Planned Parenthood without all of the facts that they should be getting in school,” she said.

Teen contraceptive use is directly tied to teen pregnancy and birth rates that, despite their decline in recent years, are still higher in African-American and Latino communities, said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the national campaign.

“We do need to recognize in the African-American and Hispanic community, when it comes to teens and sex, the trends are going in the right direction,” Albert said. “But it is also true that great disparities remain … and contraceptive use has an important role to play there.”

Samantha Caiola

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