Study Finds Free Birth Control Leads to Fewer Abortions. In Other News, Earth’s Rotation Around the Sun Leads to Seasonal Changes.

Posted on 10.09.2012 by Lily

As a friend of mine wrote when I posted the story about this study on Facebook the other day, that is some embarrassingly circular logic.

In other words, those of us who subscribe to reality knew this already.

The project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured. They were given their choice of a range of contraceptive methods at no cost — from birth control pills to goof-proof options like the IUD or a matchstick-sized implant.

When price wasn't an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.

Not surprising. Unfortunately, as Kelly well knows, many women do have price as an issue when considering their birth control options. For uninsured women, or women who don't have contraceptive coverage, the upfront cost of an IUD or implant - which can range from maybe $400 to over $1000 - is absurdly prohibitive. So what often happens is that they stick to using something like the pill, with monthly co-pays that probably end up costing more in the long run, but are more manageable in the short term. And since typical use of the pill, which must be remembered daily, is not nearly as effective as implanted devices that you get to forget about completely, these women are far more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy.

Unfortunately, this embarrassingly circular logic does not usually lead to its embarrassingly obvious solution: make contraception, especially the long-term, reversible types like the IUD and implant, as widely available and accessible as possible. Everyone should be able to agree on this no matter their feelings on abortion.

But those who fight against abortion aren't really just fighting abortion, are they? They're not really fighting abortion at all, actually, only fighting for it to move underground and become more dangerous. Those of us who work to provide birth control services and education do more to reduce the number of abortions than the anti-choice movement ever has.

But as it's become clearer lately in the mainstream American political scene, we live in a time and place where we are fighting, absurdly, for the right to have contraception covered as a basic health care right. (Oh yeah, and for health care in general, as a basic human right.)

Did anyone else watch the Jon Stewart/Bill O'Reilly debate Saturday night? On this issue Jon did a pretty decent job trying to point out the extreme cognitive dissonance that pervades the arguments we hear against contraceptive coverage, or other types of so-called "entitlement" services. After establishing that O'Reilly's father filed for disability insurance when he left his job, this exchange took place: (rough transcription)

O'Reilly: "It was from his company. Not from the government."

Stewart: "Oh, so that's okay."

O'Reilly: "Well, he had colitis!"

Stewart: "Okay! He had colitis!"

O'Reilly: "He filed through his COMPANY, not from the federal government."

Stewart: "And what do you do if your company doesn't provide that?"

O'Reilly: "Work for another company."

Stewart: "But you have colitis. And you don't have another company, or you work for the government."

O'Reilly: "No one begrudges people who are ill on the job, if they're ill on the job."

Stewart: "You begrudge! You make a judgment: Sandra Fluke doesn't need what she wants, old people don't need disability, nobody needs that because it's coming out of your pocket! But when your family needed it, well, it was colitis, and he had it through the private sector!"

Yeah, a lot of the debate was pretty excruciating to watch, and much as I love Jon Stewart I thought he could have done a much better job shutting O'Reilly down at different points. But I liked this exchange.

So yeah. Free birth control leads to fewer abortions. Everyone, supposedly, wants fewer abortions. (I could actually care less about the number of abortions; it's the number of unintended pregnancies that concern me. However many abortions occur is exactly the number of abortions that need to occur. Actually, there should probably be more abortions, since surely the lack of access in this country means some people who need abortions can't get them. I digress.)

But it doesn't matter. A little study like this isn't going to change anything for anti-choicers. Which is why my reaction to this headline was mostly eye-rolling indifference. Those of us who support abortion rights and access to birth control already know this, because duh. Those who don't aren't subscribing to reality anyway. If they were, we'd have no need to re-establish the embarrassingly obvious truth that free birth control means fewer abortions.