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Study: Free Birth Control Access Dramatically Decreases Abortion Rates

Common Dreams staff

A study published Thursday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that providing free birth control dramatically reduced the number of abortions in Missouri women and teenagers at high risk of unplanned pregnancies.

The study by Washington University in St. Louis found the reduction in abortion rates to be 62 percent to 78 percent over the national rate.

If the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, the Associated Press reported.

“The impact of providing no-cost birth control was far greater than we expected in terms of unintended pregnancies,” lead author Jeff Peipert, MD, PhD, the Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said in a release from Washington University in St. Louis. “We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUDs and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country.”

The Contraceptive Choice Project included nearly 10,000 women and adolescents—between 14 and 45 years old—in the St. Louis area between 2007 and 2011. They were counseled about and given their choice of birth control methods.

"From 2008 to 2010, annual abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women," according to the university release. "This is a substantial drop (62 percent to 78 percent) over the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available."

Piepert said the results of the study demonstrate that the rate of unintended pregnancy can be reduced, and is the key to reducing the number of abortions in the United States.

"Women’s health specialists said the study foreshadows the potential impact of the new health care reform law, in which millions of women are beginning to get contraceptives without a co-payment," The New York Times said

"It’s just an amazing improvement," Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Associated Press. "I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access."

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