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Study: Giving Women Free Birth Control Reduces Abortion Rates

(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)

Giving women free access to contraception can dramatically reduce abortion rates.

That's the finding of a new study out today from Washington University School of Medicine.

Researchers gave more than 9,000 St. Louis-area women free birth control for three years.

Lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Peipert says compared to other area women, participants in the Contraceptive Choice Project had lower rates of unplanned pregnancy and fewer than half as many abortions.

"So what we take away from this is that if we had a policy of no-cost contraception, and could remove some of the barriers to these methods, and could encourage their use in the United States, we could see a remarkable reduction in unintended pregnancies and abortions," Peipert said.

In the U.S., almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and more than 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.

Most American women rely on birth control pills and condoms to prevent pregnancy, even though IUDs and implants are known to be much more effective.

Peipert says one reason is the up-front cost of IUDs and implants, which can be over $1000.

He says there are also "myths" about their risks. "Many women think the IUD causes infertility or infections,” Peipert said. “That is not the case.”

And Peipert says some health care providers think these methods can't be used safely in young women, or in women who have never given birth. "And those are also myths."

The Contraceptive Choice Project was funded by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and was designed to promote the use of long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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