For Americans who favor reducing the number of abortions and teen pregnancies — and that should be everyone — there's good news from a study of 9,000 women in St. Louis.
Given access to contraceptives at no cost, the women chose those that were most effective, and as a group they had strikingly lower rates of teen pregnancy and abortion. The results of the 2008-2010 study by a team from Washington University were reported last week in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Since many of the women were poor and uninsured, the findings highlight a valuable provision of President Obama's health-care reform law, which requires that women get access to contraception without co-payments.
The study group had 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers, compared to 34 births per 1,000 teenagers nationally in 2010. There were 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, while the overall rate in the St. Louis metro region was 13.4 to 17 abortions, and nationally, 20 abortions per 1,000 women.
This massive project underscores something that most adults already know: The use of contraception is effective in reducing unwanted pregnancy, and enables a woman or a couple to plan for such a major life change.
Such planning also generally benefits society, which absorbs many of the cost ramifications of teen pregnancy, unwed motherhood, or more children than a household can financially support.
For anti-abortion rights groups that also oppose contraception, the numbers in the study provide further evidence that such narrow thinking hurts the groups' own cause — along with the women they claim to support.
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