Free contraception decreases pregnancy rates, so why is this such a big deal?

In news that I am sure will shock no one, supplying free contraception and sex education to teens results in fewer pregnancies and abortions. This study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, provides data and evidence that giving people access to no cost birth control and education can help curb the high rates of teen pregnancy as well as abortion rates. In the study, over 1400 women between the ages of 14 and 17 were enrolled in the CHOICE program and were given free contraception (which ever method they wanted, 72% chose intrauterine devices) and then monitored over a 5 year period. The participants in the study had pregnancy rates of 34 per 1000 people vs. the American average of 158 per 1000 and they also had fewer abortions at 10 per 1000 vs. the American average of 42 per 1000. The program aimed not only to provide free contraception to women, but to also provided education about the use of contraception, the different types of contraception and the pros and cons of each type.

The results in this study are hardly news to most people so why are we talking about it? The rates of teen pregnancy in the US is stubbornly high at 158 births per 1000 women in 2008 compared to 14 births per 1000 women in Canada or 7 per 1000 in Sweden. There is an attitude by many prominent US government figures that free contraception for teens would lead to risky sexual behaviours, increased abortion rates or go against their religious beliefs. Here are a couple highlighted quotations by some of them:

Rick Santorum “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Mike Huckabee “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”

Mike Lee Has agreed with the statement on a radio show that the women only use contraception to protect themselves from recreational behaviour.

Unfortunately, these government figures are choosing to ignore the facts that science is presenting to them and instead are choosing to their platforms and which way to vote on bills based on religious beliefs or personal opinions instead of facts. Currently, teen pregnancy costs the US almost $10 million per year and the average cost of a raising a child per year is over $12,000. Financially it makes sense to offer women the choice of free contraception, however beyond that women should have the right to freely accessible contraception to make them feel comfortable and safe about their choices to become sexually active. Not providing the contraception wont stop youth from having sex (they already are doing it), it will just allow the problem of unexpected pregnancies to continue. If you are worried about abortion, rates are higher in those who didn’t have access to free contraception. Until there is a working male contraceptive released, free access to female contraception and education is the way to go for every country in the world.

This video explains the results of this study very well and the problems a young women looking for contraception may encounter.

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