In Our Opinion
The results of a study conducted 2008-2010 and released last Thursday concluded that free birth control led to lower rates of abortion and teen births among low-income women in St. Louis, Mo.
The project tracked more than 9,000 women, many of them poor and uninsured. When price wasn’t an issue, the women chose the more expensive and effective options of implanted birth control devices.
The results were impressive: 6.3 births per 1,000 teens as compared to a national average of 34 births per 1,000 in 2010. There were also 4.4-7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared to 13.4-17 abortions per 1,000 in the St. Louis area and almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women nationally.
The study findings are interesting in light of the ongoing controversy over abortion rights and the recent conflict between the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act’s contraception provision mandate and religious conservatives, who claim that providing contraception violates their religious beliefs.
One would think the study results that free contraception appears to lead to fewer abortions would by hailed by anti-abortion rights activists, but such is not the case. One, Jeanne Monahan of the conservative Family Research Council suggested it would just encourage riskier sexual behavior.
That might be true if sexual behavior and contraceptive use were found only among the swinging singles set, but statistics reveal otherwise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States, 78.6 percent of women currently using contraception are married.
Among the 61.8 percent of all women using contraception, 64.7 percent are white while 54.5 percent are black and 58.5 percent are Hispanic. And while we’d like to see it much lower, the abortion rate among women has been declining, 19.5 percent in 2007 as compared to 27.4 percent in 1990. Of these, the highest rate is still among unmarried women, 31.2 percent, down from 47.7 percent in 1990.
One of the factors leading to the decline in these numbers is the availability and increased effectiveness of contraception. The fact that 78.6 percent of women using contraception are married shows these couples are concerned about responsible family planning, having children when they feel they are ready, financially, physically and emotionally.
This is important because some studies have shown that children born and raised in families where couples are not prepared for the challenges of parenthood are at risk of developing problems that negatively impact society, not to mention the families. We are well into the third generation of welfare families, families with children today who see that their parents and their grandparents didn’t work and relied on the federal government for assistance and wonder why they shouldn’t do so also.
The government is increasingly finding it harder to afford such services, and while there are private organizations – some religious, some not – who can step in to fill the void, their resources are finite. Maybe if religious organizations adamant about preventing contraception because it violates their religious beliefs would funnel more of their financial and physical resources to helping families facing issues surrounding unintended pregnancies, especially those who are low income, we might see fewer federal dollars needing be used.
The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has been proven time and again to be correct. That includes birth control.
Personal responsibility, that old saw touted by many conservatives, works both ways. Because if religious conservatives can ask, “Why should I pay for something that goes against my beliefs,” then others have the right to ask, “Why should I pay for a situation that could have been avoided?”