By: Meg Van Brocklin
With President Barack Obama’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act that grants citizens free access to birth control intact for two months now, one might wonder what the impact of this provision of Obamacare has been on American women. Recent studies have shown that the access to birth control has decreased the number of abortions in a specific project that took place in St. Louis. This study followed 9,000 women living in St. Louis, the majority of them uninsured and impoverished, who were given the opportunity to choose from a variety of contraceptives (the pill, IUDs, implants, etc.) without a co-payment. The result of this experiment was shocking to those who doubted the policy’s initial goal in lowering teen pregnancy rates. According to the Grand Forks Herald, “there were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.” The number of abortions also fell significantly, with participants of the study exhibiting between 4.4 and 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women per year in comparison to the national rate of 20 abortions per 1,000 women. Evidently, the outcomes of the program have been phenomenal in their attempts to lower unplanned pregnancies.
The team of Dr. Jeffrey Peipert at Washington University in St. Louis proposes that if the program was applied in cities outside of St. Louis, “one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice.” If Obama is reelected, a proposal providing FDA-approved contraceptives for women registered for workplace insurance plans will come into effect January 1.
On the contrary, there are groups currently working against this plan. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and various conservative groups assert that this law, while it excludes churches that are anti-contraception, still compels religious-affiliated groups–including some colleges and hospitals to include their workers in this provision. Family Research Council’s Jeanne Monahan voiced that Obama’s master plan could in fact cause contrary effects to its intention, the plan includes the coverage of all contraceptives, even the ones that are deemed less effective. In addition to conservative groups, presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans on repealing Obamacare, and allowing “employers, insurance companies, and politicians to limit women’s health choices.” Peipert points out that this would lead to a stratified system where only wealthy women could access this privilege, for saving monthly expenses is the core motivator of this plan (Grand Folks Herald).
Studies have shown that the lack of contraception causes half of unintended pregnancies, the other reasons linked to failing condoms, incorrect use of the pill, and unaffordable costs. Some women prefer long-term forms of contraception, such as the IUD, which is a miniscule device that can remain effectively in the uterus for five to ten years. The number of women in the U.S. relying on these forms of birth control is only about five percent, primarily because some insurance companies have been known not to cover these methods. Long-term or short-term, we are in a reproductive rights crisis as the presidential election approaches. Which one of these candidates do we want driving women’s choices pertaining to their own health?