Friday, October 5, 2012

Access to contraception means women use it

Many news outlets have covered a study reporting a significant decrease in abortions, repeat abortions, and teen births when no-cost contraception is provided. The journal Obstetrics & Gynecology is making the article available free, here. Were you inclined to click on the link and look at the article itself? Me, too. Which is one reason it's no surprise that making access to contraception easier, and free, means that people are more likely to use it.

The study wasn't just about lowering abortion rates. It was about increasing the use of long-term contraceptives, such as the IUD and implants, that are reversible, easy to use, and have low failure rates. (The study reports that IUDs and contraceptive implants are about 20 times more effective at preventing pregnancy than the pill, the patch, or the vaginal ring.) And providing those options met a need: participants chose IUDs and contraceptive implants at much higher rates than expected.

The results are stunning:
  • The birth rate among study participants aged 15-19 was 6.3 per 1000, far below the national level of 34.3 births per 1000.
  • Abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1000, well below the national rate of 19.6 per 1000.

The study's authors, Jeffrey Peipert, Tessa Madden, Jenifer Allsworth, and Gena Secura, conclude:
Increasing access to the most effective contraceptive methods by removing cost and access as barriers has greatly increased the number of adolescents and women in the St. Louis region using the most effective methods of birth control. Providing no-cost contraception and promoting the use of highly effective contraceptive methods has the potential to reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States. [C]hanges in contraceptive policy simulating the Contraceptive CHOICE Project would prevent as many as 62–78% of abortions performed annually in the United States.
Lowering the number of abortions performed because fewer unintended pregnancies mean less demand is a worthy goal. It's been my experience that, in the abstract, no one wants an abortion. But there are times when a pregnancy isn't welcome: birth control fails, or hasn't been used. And that's when we want abortion available, for ourselves, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters - it's the best of the options. Providing effective contraception to as many women as possible is a good start.

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