A new study of 9,200 women by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis shows women who are provided with free birth control have substantially reduced unplanned pregnancies, and a 62-78% reduction in abortion rates. Among the range of different birth control methods used in the study, most women opted for long-acting methods such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants, which have lower failure rates than the commonly used birth control pills. In the United States, IUDs and implants have high costs that sometimes are not covered by health insurance, making it difficult for women to access the contraceptive methods and making it unaffordable for many.

Researcher Jeff Peipert says, many women were more likely to use contraception methods when the cost barrier is removed. “It removes the human factor, the factor of having to remember to take a pill or use a condom every time. As a result, the rates of unplanned pregnancy and abortion were much lower in our study population compared to regional or national statistics. So we know that one of the major barriers to these methods, the most effective methods is cost, so IUDs and implants cost a fair amount of money up front and many women cannot afford them,” he says.

Peipert says he hopes that women will be able to afford these types of contraceptive methods under the Affordable Care Act. “A lot has to do with healthcare reform and I think that my standpoint as a physician, I would like to see more preventive medicine avoiding diseases and avoiding pregnancies that are unplanned. That’s not a disease, but it’s an unplanned pregnancy and that can be very costly and can stop a woman from continuing her education, or reaching her career goals,” he says. Peipert adds that his team of researchers encourages the use of the most effective methods of contraception and is convinced his methods will become helpful to this country and its population. “So if we can prevent unplanned pregnancies, we can allow women to further their education and further their career.”


AUDIO: Mary Farucci reports (1:00)