In what would seem a no-brainer, a recent study shows that the abortion rate is down at the same time that the use of long-term, reversible contraception is up.
Earlier studies have shown that abortion follows from unintended pregnancies. They’ve also shown that the rate of unintended pregnancies goes down as the use of contraception goes up. The newest study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a 5% decline in abortions between 2008 and 2009, after some years of the rate holding steady. Previous research has demonstrated that hard economic times actually drive the abortion rate up, so the recession isn’t the cause of the current phenomenon. New state laws restricting abortion aren’t a factor either, as these weren’t in place until 2011.
Coincidentally, the use of long-term, reversible contraception such as the IUD (intrauterine device) and hormonal implants tripled from 2002 to 2009, with most of that increase coming in the last two years. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of users of these types of contraception jumped by 8.5%. The CDC is careful not to assume a causal link between this and the reduced abortion rate, but the link with decreased unintended pregnancies is clearly stated in the study’s conclusions. The connection between fewer unintended pregnancies and fewer abortions can then be inferred:
“Providing women and men with the knowledge and resources necessary to make decisions about their sexual behavior and use of contraception can help them avoid unintended pregnancies. However, efforts to improve contraceptive use and reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the United States have been challenging…
“Findings from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), the primary national source of data on unintended pregnancy in the United States, suggest that unintended pregnancy decreased during 1982–1995 in conjunction with an increase in contraceptive use among women at risk for unintended pregnancy.”
Unfortunately, these at-risk women decreased their overall use of contraceptives in the last decade. The exception is for use of the most effective forms of reversible contraception (i.e., intrauterine devices and hormonal implants). The use of these has increased. However, as the CDC further states:
“Use of these methods in the United States remains among the lowest of any developed country…Research has shown that providing no-cost contraception increases use of the most effective methods and can reduce abortion rates. Removing cost as one barrier to the use of the most effective contraceptive methods might therefore be an important way to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and consequently the number of abortions that are performed in the United States.”
In October, the New York Times cited a large study conducted in St. Louis that substantiated the link between free birth control and the reduction of unintended pregnancies in teens, as well as reduced abortion rates in women, “offering strong evidence for how a bitterly contested Obama administration policy could benefit women’s health.”
None of this evidence is likely to make a bit of difference to the conservative politicians who, in logic-defying maneuvers, seek both to limit access to birth control and to eliminate abortions. However, it provides powerful arguments for the women and men who seek to maintain the protections of Obamacare–including free birth control–and strengthen a woman’s right to determine her own destiny.