Two recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control show that President Barack Obama’s administration was right when it argued that increasing access to birth control makes economic and health sense for our nation.
One of the studies shows that 99 percent of women have used contraception at some point in their lives, regardless of their background or religious affiliation. The other study shows that women increasingly are using emergency contraception as a means of controlling reproduction.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the studies suggest that liberals and conservatives alike can find something to like in this: Providing more access to birth control will reduce the use of the morning-after pill.
Conservatives should like that, since they generally argue that the morning-after pill does something that science and medical experts say it does not do, which is cause abortions. Emergency contraceptive pills work by preventing pregnancy after sex, not by terminating pregnancy.
Medical experts say that because contraception helps women avoid unplanned or unwanted pregnancies; it can reduce the need for abortions. Authorities from such highly regarded institutions as the National Institutes of Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant.
Liberals should approve of less use of emergency contraception because it is more expensive, less reliable and harder to obtain than birth control used before or during sex.
The CDC study that showed the high usage of contraception by women followed trends in birth control from 1982 to 2010. Among other findings: Almost half of all pregnancies are unintended, and the use of long-acting reversible contraception, such as intrauterine devices and subdermal implants, is increasing.
The study showed that the 11 percent of women who were at risk of unintended pregnancies between 2006 and 2010 were not using a contraceptive. The percentage was higher among women who were black, younger than 20 and never married.
The most common methods of birth control found in the study were female sterilization and oral contraceptive pills, followed by condoms, male sterilization and various other methods. Pills were most commonly used by women 29 and younger, while female sterilization was most common among women 30 and older.
In the study of the use of emergency contraception from 2006 through 2010, about 11 percent of women — one in nine women between the ages of 15 and 44 who were sexually active — had used emergency contraception. In 2002, about 4.2 percent of such women had used emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception was used most frequently by Hispanic women and non-Hispanic white women between the ages of 20 and 24 who had never been married. Use of the emergency contraception increased with education, with 12 percent of the women who used it having a bachelor’s degree or higher. About half of those who used it said they did so because another method of birth control had failed. The other half said they used it because they had unprotected sex.
Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis region and Southwest Missouri, said the studies underscore the importance of increased access to low-cost or no-co-pay birth control for women.
“We are unwavering in our belief that all people deserve high-quality, affordable health care,” Gianino said. “Both of these studies underscore the importance of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, which gives women coverage without co-pays for the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods. Birth control works, but only if women have access to it — no matter who they are, where they live or how much money they have.”
The recent studies suggest that women use birth control — lots of women and lots of birth control — and they want access to the full array of what is available to them.
Women want to make their own decisions about when they will bear children and whose children they will bear. Making those choices harder will create heavier costs and social burdens in the future.