Birth control accessibility grows

Free and more accessible contraceptives will fundamentally benefit women.

Delaney Daly

Logic should tell us that with access to free birth control, teenage girls and women are much less likely to have unplanned pregnancies.

This may seem obvious. Despite that, of the 6 million pregnancies every year, more than half are unplanned. This is a significantly higher rate of unplanned pregnancies than in any other developed countries. Furthermore, about 50 percent of these pregnancies happen because women were not taking birth control, the other 50 percent occurred when women had taken birth control in an ineffective or inconsistent way.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine started the Contraceptive Choice Project. More than 9,000 women ages 14-45 with potential risk of unplanned pregnancies or who had previous unplanned pregnancies were part of the 5-year study. A majority of the participants came from low-income backgrounds and/or were uninsured.

Women were advised by researchers about the properties, risks and benefits of different contraceptive forms and were then able to choose their preferred method of birth control. With the price factor as inconsequential, women mostly chose a long-acting reversible contraceptive such as IUDs, shots or implants. LARCs prove to be the longest and most effective forms of birth control; much more effective than the “pill,” which is still the most prevalent form of birth control in America.

The results of the study show that abortion rates among these women were extremely low — a drop of about 65 percent from the national average. This is most directly affected by the lowered birth rate, particularly among teenagers 14-19. Compared to the national rate of 34.3 per 1,000 girls who give birth, study participants had a birth rate of about six per 1,000 girls.

This study strongly suggests that with the availability of effective birth control, women will have a substantial decrease in unplanned pregnancies. This especially affected teenagers and women who do not have their own means for buying birth control. The national abortion rate is projected to drop, and the implement of long-acting birth control could prevent up to 40-70 percent of abortions performed every year.

Right now, LARCs are significantly more expensive than the pill if they are being offered at an uninsured rate. Before President Barack Obama’s health care plan goes into effect, women may have access to this type of birth control without co-pays. Obamacare now has made it a requirement that FDA-approved contraceptives be accessible at no cost to women enrolled in most workplace insurance plans. By Jan. 1, 2013 the majority of these plans will be in effect.       Among the different varieties of birth control, only about 5 percent of women are using a LARC, another disparity between the U.S. and other developed countries. This is primarily due to the inability to afford such contraception. Right now, about a third of women in the U.S. on birth control are either not using their preferred birth control method or are using it less consistently because of the difficulty in affording it.

This legislation has sparked some outcry from opponents of accessible birth control, mainly religious pundits. However, the stark facts regarding birth control are becoming national issues. The obtainability and distribution of free birth control will help in deterring unplanned pregnancies, thus lowering abortion rates. Those who are mostly likely to have unplanned pregnancies are also those who can most distinctly benefit from such a program. The advent of free birth control could propel us into the right direction, perhaps eventually to a place where debate on abortion is no longer needed.