Here's something you might expect: providing women free contraception leads to fewer unexpected pregnancies, and thus, a lower abortion rate. But in a new study published last week, researchers were actually surprised by how much the abortion rate dropped among women who were offered access to a range of free birth control methods.
Most women in the multiyear study, completed by Washington University in St. Louis, opted for long-lasting and low-maintenance methods like the IUD implant, which many women previously couldn't afford due to a relatively high upfront cost. About 75 percent of women in the study opted for the reliable IUD, which does not require women to remember to take the pill every day. Among the women and teens enrolled in the program, the abortion rate dropped by as much as 78 percent — from the national rate of 20 abortions per 1,000 women to 4.5 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study.
Contraception, including the IUD, is now covered for free under Obamacare, and doing so should have something in it for everyone. In addition to helping with family planning, preventing unwanted pregnancy saves insurance companies money and also reduces the abortion rate, something that could appeal to pro-life Americans. "I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access," said Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, following the study.
Yet, you can likely recall controversy surrounding the free birth control mandate in Obamacare. Religious leaders and conservative politicians, who are also pro-life, were the most outspoken against requiring employer-funded health insurance plans to cover birth control. It would be logical to assume that they'd support free birth control, since common sense (and now a study) dictates that it has the ability to cut the rate of unexpected pregnancy, and thus abortion. But it was clear from the contraception debate, which saw Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown student Sandra Fluke a "slut" for advocating for birth control coverage under plans provided by religiously-sponsored universities, that for some, sexual politics is not just about abortion. It's also an opportunity to shame women for having sex in the first place, promote retro gender roles, and keep Americans politically divided along "pro-choice" and "pro-life" lines.