Study: Teen pregnancies, abortions decline with free birth control

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COLUMBIA - A Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis study found teens who received free contraception and were educated on its use were less likely to get pregnant or have an abortion than other sexually active teenagers.

The Contraceptive Choice Project studied more than 9,000 St. Louis women. The researchers goal was to "remove the financial barriers to contraception, promote the most effective methods of birth control, and reduce unintended pregnancy in the St. Louis area".

Project researchers state nearly 50 percent, or 3 million, of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned and of these, 40 percent end in abortion. The project sites a lack of health insurance, plans that do not cover birth control, and financial stress as the main reasons unplanned pregnancy and abortion numbers are so high.

"In birth control, some methods cost more than others," said Seileach Corleigh, president of the National Organization for Women - Missouri Chapter. "The long term contraceptives, or LARCs, tend to be more expensive, sometimes as much as $1,000."

According to the study, 75 percent of the women involved chose a long-acting reversible contraceptive method. This category includes implants, hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs.

However despite the widespread selection, some women feel IUDs and other LARCs pose potential health risks, like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or infertility.

"These high hormones are classified as a Class A carcinogen," said Kathy Forck, a local anti-abortion activist. "Why would we want to give women that, and why are we pushing it on lower income women? They are just as valuable. They deserve to be uplifted."

Despite the controversy around contraception and abortion, the study found 86 percent of women who chose a LARC method were still using it after one year. In contrast, only 55 percent of women who chose a non-long-acting method remained on contraception during the same time frame.