“Many laws permit or even promote abortion, but to us this is a great evil,” Elder Oaks said in Saturday afternoon’s session of General Conference. Oaks is just one of many religious leaders that call abortion evil, but are there more effective ways to curb abortions than to simply stand on a soapbox? A recent study in St. Louis has shown a program that cuts the teen birth rate by 72%, and cuts the abortion rate by 68%. How does it do this? By providing free contraception.
“As a society, we want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion rates. This study has demonstrated that having access to no-cost contraception helps us get to that goal,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“It’s just an amazing improvement,” Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said of the results. “I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access.”
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.
The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.
There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.
In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert’s team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
I think it’s nice to stand on a soapbox and talk about the evils of abortion, but if we really want to stop unintended pregnancies and abortions, we’ve got to be pragmatic. With this program, teens are avoiding pregnancy and keeping children out of poverty, a goal that Oaks seems to laud when he said
“Children are highly vulnerable. They have little or no power to protect or provide for themselves, and little influence on so much that is vital to their well-being. Children need others to speak for them, and they need decision-makers who put their well-being ahead of selfish adult interests.”
“Children need the emotional and personal strength that comes from being raised by two parents who are united in their marriage and their goals.”
I understand the concern that providing contraception gives people a license to engage in immoral sexual activity, but it seems to me that they’re doing it anyway. Isn’t it better for children to be raised in an environment where (1) they are wanted, (2) parents are married, and (3) they aren’t in a poverty from birth?
If we’re really serious about reducing the number of abortions, and having children raised in better homes, doesn’t it make sense to support programs that actually prevent both abortion and unwanted pregnancy?
There are some who complain that insurance companies shouldn’t be required to pay for contraception, but I find that argument short sighted. In the long run, if we can prevent unwanted pregnancies, we will save money. An NBC News report said
According to a 2011 study from the Guttmacher Institute, unplanned pregnancies costs the United States a conservatively estimated $11 billion per year.
“The way I look at it as a gynecologist with an interest in women’s health and public health and family planning, is that this saves money,” Peipert said. “When you provide no-cost contraception, and you remove that barrier, you finally reduce unintended pregnancy rates. It doesn’t matter what side one is on politically, that’s a good thing.”
He also discussed direct costs and how much better contraception is for women in high risk groups.
Several factors contributed to the declines, he argued. First, a large majority of the women in the study were encouraged — and chose — to use intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and hormonal implants over more commonly used birth control pills.
Because birth control pills require strict adherence, and people forget to take them, that method fails about 8 percent of the time. IUDs and implants are over 99 percent effective.
Second, program enrollees included high-risk populations like women and girls who’ve already used abortion services once — and are more likely to have a second abortion — and women and girls who are economically distressed and may not have means to obtain contraceptive products and services.
That’s important because an IUD, including the device and the physician’s service to place it in the uterus, can cost between $800 and $1,000. Since an IUD lasts at least five years, it saves money in the long run over a monthly cost of roughly $15-$25 for pills, but the up-front charge is prohibitive for many women.
James Trussell, a Princeton University professor of economics and public affairs and an expert in family planning called the results “terrific, great work, and a very important demonstration project.”
What are your thoughts? Do you think the Church and Elder Oaks would support contraception as a means to cut both abortion and having children raised in homes in poverty without 2 parents?