Does widely available contraception reduce abortion?

A recently published study has been widely cited as supporting the HHS mandate–or at least, supporting the reasoning behind making contraceptives even more widely available than they are now.  The study is called “Preventing Unintended Pregnancies by Providing No-Cost Contraception,” and it was published in September in Obstetrics and Gynecology journal.  The study concluded that abortion rates were less than half the national and regional rates among participants in the Contraceptive CHOICE Project.  

OSV has written a summary of some of the major critiques of the study. 

  • The researchers in this study promoted the use of IUDs and hormonal implants, which were chosen by 75% of the women in the study.  This alone makes the study unreliable, since only 5% of women use this type of contraceptive.  58% chose IUDs and 17% chose hormonal implants.  
  • Long-term contraceptives such as these are essentially sterilization, and these methods cannot be used or reversed without a doctor.  The study proved: if you sterilize a women, she won’t get pregnant.
  • The long-term methods promoted by the researchers and used by most of the study participants have unique dangers, and many women can’t or shouldn’t use them.  Many doctors will not prescribe IUDs due to liability concerns.
  • There was no control group in the study.  All of the study participants were interested in using contraception and avoiding pregnancy.  There was no group that was not given free long-term contraceptives. 
  • The study authors have not made the raw, unweighted data available.  The study cited a large drop in the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies, but this drop was based on weighting and statistical formulas that the authors have not shared.
  • The study did not publish any information about sexually transmitted diseases among the participants.  Did they increase or decrease?
  • Study participants were recruited by ads and fliers, and referred from abortion clinics.  They were strongly counseled to select long-term contraceptive methods.  Randomly selected participants would have made for a more realistic study population.

This seems to be a study conducted and published to support a political agenda.  The study recruited women, encouraged them to use contraceptive methods akin to sterilization, found that they did not get pregnant at the same rate as the general population.  From that, politicians and pundits conclude that we should be forcing religious organizations to pay for this contraception (i.e., the HHS mandate).  

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