The birth control issue came up again last night, with Mitt Romney fudging his support for the Blunt Amendment. “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives,” he said. His spinners may argue that women can have access to contraceptives even if the Blunt Amendment allows their employers to keep contraceptive coverage out of their health insurance policies. Birth control pills are cheap and you can get them down the street, as many noted when the bishops demanded the right to keep contraceptive coverage out of insurance policies — even when the employees were paying 100 percent of the premiums.
In any event, an interesting new study sheds light on these issues. First, some facts:
- 50 percent of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned
- 90 percent of abortions stem from unintended pregnancies
- Birth control pills are the most commonly used form of contraception, but far from the most effective (mostly because women forget to take it or have trouble renewing it). Long-term contrception, including IUDs and implants, are more effective, but the up-front costs prevent many women from using them.
So what if contraception were free, as envisioned by the Obamacare provision requiring it be covered by health insurance? The University of Washington Medical School devised a test. More than 9,000 women were offered classes in birth control, including discussion of the various types, and told whatever they chose would be provided free of charge. About 75 percent chose the IUDs or implants.
What the researchers found was a dramatic drop in unintended pregnancies and abortions:
From 2008 to 2010, annual abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women. This is a substantial drop (ranging from 62-78 percent) compared to the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.
The lower abortion rates among CHOICE participants also is considerably less than the rates in St. Louis city and county, which ranged from 13.4 to 17 per 1,000 women, for the same years.
Among girls ages 15-19 who had access to free birth control provided in the study, the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000, far below the U.S. rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for girls the same age.
You might say it is not surprising that more contraception translates into fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions. What’s surprising is that those who consider themselves so morally opposed to abortion are also opposed to a proven method of reducing by more than half the number of abortions.