Free Birth Control Leads To Fewer Abortions, Study Finds

By Amir Khan on October 5, 2012 9:13 AM EDT

Birth Control
Abortions and unplanned pregnancies drop dramatically when birth control pills and other contraceptives are offered for free, according to a new study (Photo: Creative Commons)

Abortions and unplanned pregnancies drop dramatically when birth control pills and other contraceptives are offered for free, according to a new study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. The results, researchers said, show that the controversial Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, should lead to fewer abortion rates and unplanned pregnancies across the country.

Researchers offered 9,300 women any method of contraceptive free, and found that during the study, abortion rates were significantly lower than the country-wide average. The national abortion rate is approximately 20 per 1,000 women. However, in the study, that rate fell to between 4.4 and 7.5 percent.

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Free birth control is a controversial component of Obamacare, but experts said this study shows that the act will cut down on the $11 billion spent annually on unplanned pregnancies.

"The way I look at it as a gynecologist with an interest in women's health and public health and family planning, is that this saves money," Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, study author and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University, told NBC News. "When you provide no-cost contraception, and you remove that barrier, you finally reduce unintended pregnancy rates. It doesn't matter what side one is on politically, that's a good thing."

Researchers also found that when offered their choice of contraception for free, 75 percent opted for longer-lasting methods such as IUD's and implants over the pill.

"That was a shocker," Peipert told WebMD. "We had hoped to get maybe 15% of the women to choose IUDs or implants, but it was closer to 75%. That made all the difference."

IUD's and implants are more effective than the pill, with a failure rate of less than 1 percent, compared to 8 percent for the pill. However, they are more expensive as well. But if offered for free, the study shows most women will choose them.

"This study reinforces what I have seen in my own practice," Dr. Nancy Stanwood, chair-elect of the group Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, told WebMD. "When women have access to all methods of birth control and cost is not a barrier, they prefer the highly effective methods."

But not everyone agrees with the findings. Thomas Joseph White, director of the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and R.R. Reno, in the conservative journal First Things, told NBC News that free birth control is a slippery slope.

"If, as supporters of the contraceptive mandate argue, it will pay for itself in reduced medical expenses, so will free embryo engineering and other eugenic services, including infanticide, doctor-assisted suicide, organ harvesting, and genetic manipulation," he said.

But to academics and non-religious, the study shows that free birth control is an effective measure to stop unplanned pregnancies and save money.

"What the study suggests to me," John Santelli, professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, told NBC News, "is that it's totally supportive of the president's provisions on reproductive care and preventive services for women in the Affordable Care Act."

James Trussell, a Princeton University professor of economics and public affairs and an expert in family planning, echoed his statements.

"It's hard to imagine how politicians wouldn't like to spend a dollar to save four," he said. "Regardless of your views on abortion, virtually everybody says preventing unintended pregnancies is smart."

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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