Providing birth control to women free of charge, a measure contained in new health care legislation pushed by President Barack Obama, “significantly” reduces unintended teen pregnancies and abortion rates in the United States, according to a new study.
“It’s just an amazing improvement,” Dr. James Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said after the study was published on Thursday. “I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access.”
The study, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the pro-choice organization Planned Parenthood, showed “a clinically and statistically significant reduction in abortion rates, repeat abortions, and teenage birth rates” among subjects who were given free contraception.
The study was conducted in the St. Louis area over a course of four years and comprised 9,256 women and teens between the ages of 14 and 45. It simulated the free contraceptive mandate under Obama’s controversial Affordable Care Act, which is also referred to by critics as “Obamacare”.
All of the subjects in the study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, were uninsured, low-income women or those otherwise considered to be at risk for unintended pregnancy.
The researchers said that when cost was not an issue the women chose the most effective and permanent methods of contraception including implants, that usually cost several hundred dollars. The result was significantly less unintended pregnancies and abortions compared to the national average.
“We observed a significant reduction in the percentage of abortions that were repeat abortions in the St. Louis region compared with Kansas City and nonmetropolitan Missouri,” the researchers said, adding that overall abortion rates among the study group were less than half the regional and national averages.
The study showed 6.3 births per 1,000 teens who received free contraception, compared to a national teen average in 2010 of 34 births. It also showed there were 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study versus a national rate of 20 abortions per 1,000 women.
The findings come two months after the Affordable Care Act began requiring private insurance companies to provide free contraception. The law stipulates that any insurance contract starting on or after August 1 must offer birth control along with seven other women's health services, including pap smears, for free.
Obama’s opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has vowed to repeal the health care law if he is elected.