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Editorial: Clear choice: Free birth control decreases abortion rate

Abortiopponents joannual March for Life outside U.S. Supreme Court January 2008 WashingtD.C.  |  AP file photo

Abortion opponents join the annual March for Life outside the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2008 in Washington, D.C. | AP file photo

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Updated: November 8, 2012 12:03PM

Folks opposed to government-paid birth control, unwed motherhood and abortion, it’s time you choose your poison.

If you are realistic and wise, a major new study out of St. Louis says, you’ll support the cause of free birth control as a sure-fire way to do something big about those two bigger worries: unwed motherhood and abortion. The study found that when women have access to free contraceptives, especially the most effective forms such as the IUD and a matchstick-size implant, teen births and abortions plummet.

It should surprise no one that making birth control readily available results in fewer unwanted pregnancies. It is simply a canard, based on no evidence, that freely available birth control leads to even more pregnancies by encouraging greater sexual freedom.

But the St. Louis study’s results were stunning.

When 9,000 women, many of them poor or uninsured, were offered free birth control — ranging from pills to implants — three-fourths of them chose the most reliable options. They chose either an IUD, a tiny T-shaped device inserted into the uterus that can last five to 10 years, or Implanon, a long-term contraceptive inserted under the skin of the arm.

Abortion rates for the study group dropped in 2010 to just 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women, compared to rates of 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 in the metro St. Louis region. It was far lower than the national rate, as well, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

Teen pregnancy rates dropped to 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers, far below the national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens.

Under Obamacare, in one of the law’s most contentious provisions, millions of women will be able to get contraceptives for free. While we respect the religious objections of many Americans to this provision, the St. Louis study makes clear that it is excellent public policy.

As Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Associated Press: “It’s just an amazing improvement. I would think if you are against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access.”

All moral choices are not equal. At times they are even in conflict.

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