Until contraception without a co-pay was included in the Affordable Care Act, the main barrier to widespread use of the most effective contraceptives has been cost. An IUD costs around $700, which for many families is prohibitive. Imagine a married evangelical woman and her husband making the prayerful decision not to have additional children. Imagine that the woman works for a for-profit corporation, but her boss objects to IUDs. Allowing the employer’s beliefs to deny a woman’s access to the method of contraception recommended by her doctor puts a heavy and unfair burden on the woman and her family’s well being.
The St. Louis Contraceptive CHOICE Project demonstrated that we are not just talking about a difference at the margins. Investigators at Washington University School of Medicine enrolled almost 10,000 women at-risk for unintended pregnancy. When they were given their choice of birth control methods, counseled about their effectiveness, risks, and benefits, with all methods provided at no cost, about 75 percent of women in the study chose the most effective methods: IUDs or implants.
As a result, annual abortion rates among study participants dropped to approximately 50 percent to 80 percent below the national abortion rate.
Recent data from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that the U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest since the 1970’s. The contraception mandate could very well reduce the abortion rate to its lowest point on record.
Imagine a million fewer unintended pregnancies. Imagine healthier babies, moms and families. Imagine up to 800,000 fewer abortions. No matter your faith or political beliefs, our hunch is that we can all agree that fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer abortions would be a blessing.
Julia K. Stronks J.D., Ph.D is the Edward B. Lindaman Chair at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. Jeffrey F. Peipert, M.D., Ph.D. is the Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.