Study Shows Free Access to Birth Control Cuts Abortion Rate

By Emily Murray

The issue of how we as a society deal with unintended pregnancies reaches much farther than simply the woman’s opinion on the matter both politically and socially.  In fact, it’s remained one of the most fiercely debated topics for decades but a new study shows that perhaps preventing the pregnancy from occurring altogether is the answer to lowering the abortion rate and this may start with making access to free birth control a reality for more women. A study which spanned between 2008 and 2010 yielded some rather significant results on the issue.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied 9,256 women ranging in age from 14-45 with an average of 25 years old. The Contraceptive Choice Project included a majority of women who were either in a low income bracket, uninsured or lacking much education. Of these women, almost two-thirds had previously had unintended pregnancies.

For three years the researchers provided this group of women with free FDA-approved contraception and also educated them on the most effective methods including long acting reversible contraceptives which included IUD devices, as well as oral contraceptives. Based on the extreme effectiveness of IUD devices, nearly 75% of the women went with this options since it is reversible but can last for 5 to 10 years if the woman so chooses.

During those years, the abortion rate lowered tremendously compared to that of the national average. By comparison, this group of women had a rate of 4.4 to 7.5 abortions/1000 women whereas the national rate is 19.6/1000 women. As far as the St. Louis area where these women were from, they also had a much lower rate of abortion compared to the previous year since it was about 13.4 to 17/1000.

As far as the younger women in the study, teens saw a drastic decrease in unintended pregnancies. According the a TIME article on the topic, there were only 6.3 births per 1000 teen girls (15 to 19) in contrast to the national rate of 34.3/1000.

The study’s authors concluded that if changes were made to mirror the free contraception methods used in the study on a national level that it could prevent between 41 and 71 percent of abortions in the United States annually. When comparing the cost of these unintended pregnancies vs. the cost of free contraception it appears that in the long run this would cost tax payers less money.

What do you think? Which presidential candidate do you side with when it comes to women’s health care choices?