National Survey Results on Public Opinions/Practices on Contraceptive Use and Decision Making

Overwhelming Majority of Women Feel Most Men Are Not Responsible Enough For Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy

The Top Two Reasons Why: Men “Don’t Care” or Think It’s the Woman’s Responsibility

The Majority of Women Say They Alone Make Sure Birth Control Is Used

Embargoed For Release: 4:00 p.m. EST, Monday, May 22, 1995

For further information contact: Matt James Tina Hoff (415) 854-9400

Washington, D.C. — Three quarters (73%) of American women say most men are not responsible enough for preventing unplanned pregnancy — and, two thirds of men agree — with the leading reason being that most men “don’t care,” according to a new national survey of public knowledge and attitudes regarding contraception and unplanned pregnancy by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The survey was designed by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Louis Harris and Associates, and conducted by Louis Harris and Associates. It was released today at a seminar on “Men and Condom Use” as part of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s joint initiative with the American Enterprise Institute on “Sexuality and American Social Policy.”

The four top reasons given by Americans as to why they think most men are not responsible enough for preventing unplanned pregnancy are:

  1. “[They] don’t care” (37% of women and 45% of men).


  • “[They feel] it is the female’s responsibility” (30% women, 21% men);
  • “[They can’t] become pregnant/not his body” (18% women, 9% men); and
  • “[They don’t] think it matters” (7% women, 12% men).


In contrast to their views about men in general, a large majority of American women (82%) say their own most recent partner was “responsible enough” for preventing unplanned pregnancy. But when asked about actual behavior, the majority of women who use birth control (57%) say they alone are the one to make sure contraception is used. A third (35%) say the responsibility is shared with their partner. And, only 7 percent of women say their partner alone takes the responsibility.

“If we are to begin to reduce the numbers of unplanned pregnancies in this country, men (and women) must get beyond the notion that preventing unplanned pregnancy is only a woman’s responsibility,” said Drew E. Altman, President, Kaiser Family Foundation.

Contraceptive Decision Making

Who Talks About It? Nearly half (47%) of women who currently use birth control say they initiated the discussion about contraception with their most recent partner — another 40 percent say both they and their partner do, and only 7 percent say their partner did. Men are more likely to say they and their partner both initiate such discussions (39%). Almost equal percentages of men — about a quarter — say their partner does (27%) or they themselves do (26%).

Who Chooses? Six out of ten American women who currently use birth control say they alone chose the method (37 percent of men say their partner chose). Approximately a third of women and men say the choice of birth control is a joint one (30% and 32%, respectively). Although 28 percent of men say they alone chose the method of contraception they use, only 7 percent of women say their partner did.

Who Pays? Equal proportions of women — a third each — say either they pay for the birth control they use or the cost is shared with their partner. A quarter of women say their partner pays. Close to half of men (45%) say they pay for birth control, 27 percent say the cost is shared with their partner, and 20% say they alone pay. (9% of women and 7% of men say neither they nor their partner directly pay for birth control.)

The Facts About Unplanned Pregnancies in the United States

Previously released Kaiser Family Foundation survey findings indicate that Americans overwhelmingly believe unplanned pregnancy is a major problem facing this country. The facts on unplanned pregnancy are:

  • Approximately 3.5 million unplanned pregnancies occur each year in the United States.
  • Current estimates indicate that close to 60 percent of pregnancies and 40 percent of births among American women are unplanned.
  • Women in the United States are twice as likely as women in Great Britain to face an unplanned pregnancy and three times as likely as women in the Netherlands to face an unplanned pregnancy.
  • While slightly more than half of unplanned pregnancies in the United States occur among the 10 percent of women who do not use any contraception, 1.7 million (47%) occur among women who experience contraceptive failure or improperly use birth control.


The Kaiser Family Foundation Survey on Public Knowledge and Attitudes on Contraception and Unplanned Pregnancy was a random-sample, telephone survey of adults nationwide. The national sample consisted of 2,002 adults, 18 years and older, and was conducted between October 12 and November 13, 1994. The margin of error in the national sample is plus or minus 2 percent. The questions pertaining to contraceptive use draw from a sub-sample of the national population that currently uses birth control. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 3 percent.

Reports have been released to date from data collected in this survey on public knowledge and attitudes about abortion rates, teen sexuality and pregnancy, and emergency contraceptive pills. To receive summaries of any of these three reports, call the Kaiser Family Foundation publications request line at 1-800-956-4533.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, is a non-profit, independent national health care philanthropy and is not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries. The Foundation’s work is focused on four main areas: health policy, reproductive health, HIV, and health and development in South Africa.

Topline: Public Knowledge and Attitudes on Contraception and Unplanned Pregnancy: Men and Women

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