A new study was released last week by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO that showed a strong correlation between contraceptive access and a lowered abortion rate. According to the report, just over 9,000 women ages 14-45 enrolled in The CHOICE Project and were provided three years of free contraception. Three years after enrollment, the study found the rate of abortions within the population reduced dramatically, from one-third below the national average to three-fourths below the national average. In hard numbers, that is one abortion prevented for every 100 women who participated.
The study concluded that one key factor that likely led to such a dramatic reduction in abortions was the use of Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (known in reproductive health circles as LARCs). LARC methods such as IUDs (also know as IUCs) and the arm implant are statistically shown to be the most effective contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy (99% effective) for three to 12 years, depending on the method chosen. Though the effectiveness of these methods is evident, cost can be prohibitive to many women, as they can cost between $500-$1,000 up front. Sticker-shock aside, these methods cost far less in the long-run when you consider the potential costs of a monthly method ($15-$80/month), office visits, monthly commute time to pick up supply, Emergency Contraception, and the costs of an unplanned pregnancy.
The study highlights the need for greater access to such costly yet effective contraceptives, as they are most effective in preventing unplanned pregnancies. Unplanned pregnancies account for approximately half of all U.S. pregnancies, so a reduction of this magnitude has considerable implications for our economy, our population, the health of girls and women, education, the costs of social programs, and the overall need for abortion services.
The Affordable Care Act will eventually require citizens to have health insurance or pay a federal tax. The mandate also requires that insurers provide contraception without co-pay. The study highlighted above strongly suggests that if women have access to LARC methods, they will have far fewer unintended pregnancies, thus far fewer abortions.
This concept, that greater access to more effective birth control options would reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion comes as no surprise to many of us within the reproductive health community, as we see the cost barriers with our patients all the time. Here at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, we provide our abortion patients with one free pack of birth control pills or emergency contraception after their procedure to help them get back into a contraceptive routine, should they choose to. We also provide discounts for other methods such as the Patch, the Ring, or the Shot, for those who don’t want the Pill. We also provide our post-abortion patients with a full year prescription of the contraceptive method they choose, so they will not have to return to a health care provider before beginning contraception.
Time and time again I hear from patients that they became pregnant unintentionally because they did not have the money to afford their contraceptive method. Some are baffled that even one month off their method can lead to pregnancy. Studies now show that unintended pregnancy is reduced when cost is no longer a factor in the contraceptive equation.
No matter what side of the aisle you stand on, we all want to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion services. See the video below to learn more from participants in the study, and the barriers they previously faced.