Abortion Rates Go Down After Free Birth Control

By User:Ciell (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

In a research study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo., it was found that providing free birth control to females has substantially reduced the rates of unplanned pregnancies and decreased abortions by 62% to 78% over the national rates. The methods of free birth control offered to women in the study included implants and intrauterine devices or IUDs, which have the lowest failure rates among contraceptives.

In the United States, implants and IUDs have high costs that aren’t always covered by private medical insurance, making these options unobtainable for some women. The impact of providing free birth control to low income women has not only improved access to birth control, but it has also drastically reduced the number of unintended pregnancies all across the country.

The Impact

The effect of providing free birth control was far greater than expected in terms of unexpected pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies are a major issue in America. Every year, more than 50 perfect of all pregnancies in the country are unplanned, far higher than in other developed countries. About half of all these unintended pregnancies are caused because women don’t use contraception or use it incorrectly or infrequently.

In the St. Louis area, approximately 9,256 women and adolescents enrolled in the Contraceptive Choice Project, which was held between 2007 and 2011. Female participants were between 14-45 years of age and at risk of unintended pregnancy and willing to begin a new method of contraceptives.

The women received counseling about the different methods available, including their effectiveness, risks and benefits. The relatively low failure rate of the IUD and implants over that of shorter acting types of birth control was emphasized. About 75 percent of the women participants picked IUDs or implants.

From 2008-2010, the annual abortion rate of the women in the study ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000. The decrease was quite substantial over the national rate of 19.6 per 1,000 women in 2008, the last year for which rates were available.

Among females aged 15-19 who had access to free birth control provided by the study, the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000, which was far below the average rate in America of 34.3 per 1,000 for females within the same age range.

While oral birth control pills were the most commonly used type of contraceptives in the U.S., their effective rates are contingent upon a woman remembering to take the pill each day and having easy access to refills.

In contrast, an IUD is inserted by a medical professional and is effective for 5 to 10 years, while an implant is effective for 3 years. Despite these methods being super effective over short-term methods, only a small number of women in America using contraceptives will actually use these devices. Many women cannot afford the costs of an IUD or implant, which can be several hundred dollars and it may not be covered by private insurance or Medicaid.


Unplanned pregnancy remains a very real and significant health problem in America, with higher proportions of teenagers and women who are less educated and lower income status being the most effected. The results of the study demonstrated that the amount of unintended pregnancies can be reduced by having access to free birth control.


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