Study: Free Access To Contraception Reduces Abortion Rate

Oct 5, 2012

Giving women free access to contraception can dramatically reduce abortion rates. That's the finding of a new study out on Thursday from Washington University.

Researchers gave more than 9,000 St. Louis-area women free birth control for three years. Compared to other area women, study participants had lower rates of unplanned pregnancy, and fewer than half as many abortions.

Lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Peipert says the Contraceptive CHOICE Project was designed to promote long-term birth control methods like IUDs and implants, which are known to be much more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies than more commonly used methods like the pill.

"So what we take away from this is that if we had a policy of no-cost contraception, and could remove some of the barriers to these methods, and could encourage their use in the United States, we could see a remarkable reduction in unintended pregnancies and abortions,”Peipert said.

Peipert says one reason women turn away from IUDs or implants is the up-front cost, which can be over $1000.

He says there are also "myths" about their risks.

"Many women think the IUD causes infertility or infections. That is not the case,” Peipert said.

And Peipert says some health care providers think these methods can't be used safely in young women, or in women who have never given birth.

"And those are also myths,” Peipert said.

Peipert says about three-quarters of the more than 9,000 St. Louis-area women in the study chose IUDs or implants.

In the U.S., almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and more than 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.