A new study called “The Contraceptive Choice Project” outlined in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology tracked over 9,000 women in St. Louis and found free birth control led to drastically lower rates of abortion and births by teen moms. The study gave a range of free birth control options to poor and uninsured women (those at the greatest risk for an unplanned pregnancy) between 2007 and 2011.
Access to birth control, including the most effective, implanted options — meant women had fewer abortions: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study. Not only is that lower than the national average of 20 abortions per 1,000 women but lower than the abortion rate for women in St. Louis, which is 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women. The Obstetrics & Gynecology study, published yesterday, predicted that one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women being given free contraception.
The teen pregnancy birth rate was also positively affected. In 2010, the national birth rate for teen moms was 34 births for 1,000 young women; in the free birth control study, it was 6.3 births for teen moms per 1,000 young women. Shocking, I know: equipping teenagers with birth control actually prevents unplanned pregnancies!
“We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUDs and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country,” said Dr. Jeff Peipert, lead author of the study.
I’m glad to see hard data backing up these observations as what a lot of us pro-choicers see as just common sense: access to contraception will mean fewer unplanned pregnancies, and fewer unplanned pregnancies will mean fewer abortions and pregnant teens. That has been part of the theory behind including contraception as preventative care covered by President Obama’s health care reform — preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place means fewer abortions . I’ve never quite understood folks who oppose abortion and the use of contraception. (Well, I think I do understand them: they are actually more about being anti-sex and/or controlling women through their reproductive decisions. But that’s another post entirely.)