Study: Free birth control leads to fewer abortions

Associated Press

ABC News Videos

Scientists: The Male Birth Control Pill

Scientists: The Male Birth Control Pill

Scientists: The Male Birth Control Pill

Now watching

Next video starts in : 7 Play

Scientists: The Male Birth Control Pill

Scientists: The Male Birth Control Pill
Replay video
Up next

President Obama's "Eight for Eight" Legacy

President Obama's "Eight for Eight" Legacy Up next

President Obama's "Eight for Eight" Legacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Free birth control led to dramatically lower rates of abortions and teen births, a large study concludes. The findings were eagerly anticipated and come as a bitterly contested Obama administration policy is poised to offer similar coverage.

The project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured. They were given their choice of a range of contraceptive methods at no cost — from birth control pills to goof-proof options like the IUD or a matchstick-sized implant.

When price wasn't an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.

The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.

There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That's lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert's team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The findings of the study, which ran from 2008 to 2010, come as millions of U.S. women are beginning to get access to contraception without copays under President Barack Obama's health care law. Women's health specialists said the research foreshadows that policy's potential impact.

"As a society, we want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion rates. This study has demonstrated that having access to no-cost contraception helps us get to that goal," said Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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

The law requires that Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives be available for free for women enrolled in most workplace insurance plans, a change that many will see as new plan years begin on Jan. 1.

The policy is among the law's most contentious provisions because it exempts churches that oppose contraception but requires religious-affiliated organizations, such as colleges or hospitals, to provide the coverage for their workers. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and many conservative groups say that violates religious freedom, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has voiced similar criticism.

This week, a federal judge in St. Louis dismissed a lawsuit challenging the contraception mandate; nearly three dozen similar suits have been filed around the country.

Thursday's data didn't sway the critics.

Jeanne Monahan of the conservative Family Research Council suggested contraceptive use can encourage riskier sexual behavior.

"Additionally, one might conclude that the Obama administration's contraception mandate may ultimately cause more unplanned pregnancies since it mandates that all health plans cover contraceptives, including those that the study's authors claim are less effective," Monahan said.

Here's why this is a public health issue: Nearly half of the nation's 6 million-plus pregnancies each year are unintended. An estimated 43 percent of them end in abortion. Low-income women are far more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than their wealthier counterparts.

"We shouldn't have, in my view, a tiered system where the women with money can get family planning and the women without cannot," said Peipert, noting that 39 percent of the women in his study had trouble paying basic expenses.

About half of unplanned pregnancies occur in women who use no contraception. As for the other half, condoms can fail and so can birth control pills or other shorter-acting methods if the woman forgets to use them or can't afford a refill.

In contrast, you can forget about pregnancy for three years with Implanon, the implant inserted under the skin of the arm. An IUD, a tiny T-shaped device inserted into the uterus, can last for five to 10 years, depending on the brand. Change your mind, and the doctor removes either device before it wears out.

Only about 5 percent of U.S. women use long-acting contraceptives, far fewer than in other developed countries. Peipert said insurance hasn't always covered the higher upfront cost to insert them, even though years of birth control pills can add up to the same price.

Yet three-quarters of his study participants chose an IUD or Implanon, and a year later 85 percent were sticking that choice — compared to about half who had initially chosen the pill, patch or other shorter-acting method.

Cost isn't the only barrier. Doctors don't always mention long-acting methods, maybe because of a long-outdated belief that IUDs aren't for young women or just because they assume women want the most commonly prescribed pill.

That was the case for Ashley England, 26, of Nashville, Tenn., who enrolled in the study while in graduate school in St. Louis. She had taken birth control pills for years but struggled with a $50 monthly copay. She switched to a five-year IUD, and loves that she and her husband don't have to think about contraception.

"No one had ever presented all the options equally," England said. "It's not telling you what to do. It's giving you a choice unhindered by money."

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • The internet roasts a photo of Donald Trump writing his inauguration speech

      When times get tough, at least you can still meme. President-elect Donald Trump is slated to deliver his inauguration address on Friday, so he teased his Twitter followers with a little behind-the-scenes photo of himself writing a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. SEE ALSO: Don's Johns: Port-a-potties get censored for Trump’s inauguration Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday. #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/S701FdTCQu — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017 The staged photo and Trump's cold, dead gaze sent the internet straight into "meme mode alpha," where it was pointed out that Trump was actually holding Sharpie marker, which may or may not actually be closed. @realDonaldTrump that is a blank piece of paper and you're holding a closed sharpie pic.twitter.com/ekCcH8eTXe — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 @cajunmonkey439 @realDonaldTrump It is *obviously* a sharpie. pic.twitter.com/gdD2AUhBKX — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/8CSroNshBR — XpeK (@peKofX) January 18, 2017 Surprised that you didn't just use this photo as your epic, bigly speech pic.twitter.com/SezwzToFg4 — Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) January 18, 2017 good job @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Ioj869Tfy3 — uhhh (@_uhhhhhhh) January 18, 2017 pic.twitter.com/pAKcXAEAkD — Sam Grittner (@SamGrittner) January 18, 2017 @realDonaldTrump #NotMyPresident #TheResistance #conflict #Putin #Inauguration In house security cam Mar a Lago pic.twitter.com/diwnpjAS3F — Beo Bachter (@kaysintBB) January 18, 2017 Early draft of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. #TrumpSpeech #MyFirstWordsAsPresident #MAGA pic.twitter.com/qgo1glv5cG — Tom ❄️ (@TommieWho) January 18, 2017 Exclusive sneak peek at Trump's inauguration speech! pic.twitter.com/6W6ex0Ks3z — Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) January 18, 2017 Trump's Inaugural address leaked... pic.twitter.com/J8soJQ4Ira — Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) January 18, 2017 Exclusive: #Trump's Inauguration speech leaked! #TrumpInaugural #trumpgrammar pic.twitter.com/XzrXXpnjxD — Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) January 18, 2017 According to CNN, Trump did write his inauguration speech himself. BONUS: NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Mashable
    • Foreclosed mall once valued at $190M is auctioned for $100

      TARENTUM, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for $100.

      Associated Press
    • Ex-president George H.W. Bush moved to intensive care; wife hospitalized

      Bush, who at 92 is the nation's oldest living ex-president, has been at Houston Methodist Hospital since Saturday after experiencing shortness of breath, family spokesman Jim McGrath said on Wednesday. Since then, Bush experienced an "acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia" and was sedated for the unspecified procedure, his office said.

      Reuters
    • Roethlisberger hoping to play up to Brady's "gold standard"

      Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible. Their brief exchange ...

      Associated Press
    • Durant dazzles against former Oklahoma City team once more

      OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook promised to pay back Zaza Pachulia for a hard foul.

      Associated Press
    • Giant Florida Gator Is Not For Tourists, Nature Preserve Staff Warn

      Officials for the county's natural resources division said, although, they appreciate the attention the nature reserve has been getting, they are also worried about the safety of visitors and wildlife.

      International Business Times
    • 'Dozens' of IS fighters killed in US B-2 strikes in Libya

      Washington (AFP) - American B-2 stealth bombers and armed drones have attacked two Islamic State military camps in Libya, killing "dozens" of jihadists near their former bastion of Sirte, an official said Thursday.

      AFP 15 min ago
    • When presidential inaugurations go very, very wrong

      As Constitution Daily counts down to Inauguration Day, we look back at three presidential ceremonies from the 1800s that ended very badly.

      National Constitution Center
    • Deadly snow avalanche hits hotel in earthquake-stricken central Italy (15 photos)

      Rescue workers were met with an eerie silence Thursday when they reached a four-star spa hotel struck by an avalanche in a mountainous earthquake-stricken region of central Italy. At least 30 people were missing, including at least two children, authorities said. Guests at the three-story Hotel Rigopiano in the central Abruzzo region alerted emergency workers of the disaster on Wednesday, following a series of quakes in the region. “Help, we’re dying of cold,” one couple wrote rescuers, according to the ANSA news agency. Another man, identified by news reports as Fabio Salzetta, sent a SMS message saying he had escaped with a maintenance worker, but that others were trapped inside. Corriere della Sera quoted the text message as saying: “Some walls were knocked down.” And: “I’m outside with a maintenance worker but you can’t see anything of the hotel, there’s only a wall of snow in front of me.” When rescuers on skis arrived in the early morning hours of Thursday, they found just two people alive, according to news reports. Civil protection authorities said that 30 people were missing. The ANSA news agency quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details weren’t immediately available. Just one body was reported removed from the hotel by late morning Thursday. (AP) See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Donald Trump Tells Democrats Boycotting His Inauguration: Give Me Your Tickets

      'I don't want the celebrities there. I want the people there,' Trump spouted.

      Inside Edition
    • Virginia man convicted of 2006 slaying of family is executed

      JARRATT, Va. (AP) — A man convicted of killing a family of four, slashing their throats and setting their home ablaze after they left their front door open while preparing for a New Year's Day party in 2006, was executed Wednesday.

      Associated Press
    • North Korea's Kim Jong Un Is So Fat He Might Have Hurt His Ankle Again

      Kim's leg injuries have been linked to obesity in the past and recent pictures show the Korean leader appears to have put on extra weight. 

      International Business Times
    • Longtime Astros slugger Bagwell elected to Hall of Fame

      HOUSTON (AP) — Jeff Bagwell struggled to describe how he felt soon after being elected to the Hall of Fame in his seventh year on the ballot.

      Associated Press
    • Hall of Famer Willie McCovey pardoned by Obama

      SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey has been pardoned by President Barack Obama on tax evasion charges from 1995.

      Associated Press
    • Pet Dog Hailed A Hero After Licking Owner Awake When Overnight Fire Breaks Out in Home

      "The first thing the family said to us was, 'Jack saved our lives. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be alive right now,'" an emergency responder said.

      Inside Edition
    • Deadly fire destroys high-rise building in Tehran, Iran (21 photos)

      A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday, killing at least 30 firefighters and injuring some 75 people, state media reported. The disaster struck the Plasco building, an iconic structure in central Tehran just north of the capital’s sprawling bazaar. Iran’s state-run Press TV announced the firefighters’ deaths, without giving a source for the information. Local Iranian state television said 30 civilians were injured in the disaster, while the state-run IRNA news agency said 45 firefighters had been injured. Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours before the collapse. Police tried to keep out shopkeepers and others wanting to rush back in to collect their valuables. However, witnesses said some people had slipped through and gone back in. The building came down in a matter of seconds, shown live on state television, which had begun an interview with a journalist at the scene. A side of the building came down first, tumbling perilously close to a firefighter perched on a ladder and spraying water on the blaze. A thick plume of brown smoke rose over the site after the collapse. Onlookers wailed in grief. (AP) See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .  

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Undocumented worker sues San Francisco for violating sanctuary law

      The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday on behalf of Pedro Figueroa Zarceno, 32, in federal court in San Francisco against the city and its police chief for violating his right to due process and breaking an ordinance barring municipal employees from cooperating with federal immigration authorities seeking to deport a person. Figueroa walked into a police station in November 2015 to report his car stolen, according to the lawsuit. The civil action comes as San Francisco and dozens of other U.S. cities face pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Friday, to abandon their policies of limiting cooperation between law enforcement officers and U.S. immigration authorities.

      Reuters
    • Virginia inmate executed despite arguments against drug 'cocktail'

      A Virginia inmate was executed on Wednesday for murdering two young sisters during a 2006 killing spree, after the Supreme Court denied a stay request where he argued the use of compounded lethal drugs violated his constitutional rights.     Ricky Gray, 39, died by lethal injection at 9:42 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center, Virginia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney said in an emailed statement. Gray's lawyers filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, saying that the three-drug combination could cause Gray unnecessary suffering and thereby violate constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.

      Reuters
    • Man says Milwaukee's sheriff detained him for shaking head

      MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Milwaukee man says a tough-talking, cowboy-hat wearing Wisconsin sheriff detained him after a flight because the man shook his head at the lawman, who has gained a national prominence for his outspoken support of Donald Trump.

      Associated Press