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Free Contraception Dramatically Lowers Unintended Pregnancies

A study by a team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that access to free contraception decreased unintended pregnancies, teen pregnancy rates, and abortion rates.  Over the course of three years, the researchers provided 9,256 adolescents and women at risk for unintended pregnancy with two types of contraception: birth control pills, and long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods, such as the implantable IUD.  Three out of four women chose a LARC method, which is 20 times more effective than birth control pills but tend to be significantly more expensive.

The study found that teen pregnancies dropped dramatically in this population.  While nationally, the teen birth rate stood at 34.3 per 1,000, the rate in this population was only 6.3 per 1,000 teens.  Also, the study group had significantly lower abortion rates.  In the St. Louis area, 13.4 per 1,000 women had an abortion in 2010.  Among the women in the study, the rate was 5.9 per 1,000 women.  The authors concluded that no-cost contraception has a very real and dramatic effect on reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies.  Additionally, the authors attribute much of the success of the program to LARCs, which is only used by 8.5% of women nationally.

With the ACA’s provision to make contraceptives available at no cost for all insurance subscribers, the authors estimate that it could help prevent “as many as 41-71% of abortions performed annually in the United States.”

The full article is available online.

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