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The Times
  • Editorial: The politics of birth control

  • The birth control issue came up again in the latest presidential debate, with Gov. Mitt Romney fudging his previously stated opposition to requirements under the Affordable Care Act that employers include contraceptives in employee insurance plans

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  • The birth control issue came up again in the latest presidential debate, with Gov. Mitt Romney fudging his previously stated opposition to requirements under the Affordable Care Act that employers include contraceptives in employee insurance plans.
    “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives,” Romney said. But he had previously expressed support for the Blunt amendment, which would permit all employers – not just religious-affiliated organizations – to exclude birth control from health insurance. Even when employees are paying 100 percent of the premiums, their bosses would have the right to limit their health care choices.
    Romney’s spinners may argue that women can have access to contraceptives even with the Blunt Amendment – as long as they pay for it themselves. Birth control pills are cheap and you can get them down the street, as many noted when the Catholic bishops raised the issue.
    The issue touches the Senate race here in Massachusetts as well. Sen. Scott Brown, who claims to be pro-choice, was a co-sponsor of the Blunt Amendment, which challenger Elizabeth Warren opposes.
    In any event, an interesting new study sheds light on these issues. First, some facts:
    - 50 percent of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned
    - 90 percent of abortions stem from unintended pregnancies
    - Birth control pills are the most commonly used form of contraception, but far from the most effective (mostly because women forget to take it or have trouble renewing it). Long-term contrception, including IUDs and implants, are more effective, but the up-front costs prevent many women from using them.
    So what if contraception were free, as envisioned by the Obamacare provision requiring it be covered by health insurance? The University of Washington Medical School devised a test. More than 9,000 women were offered classes in birth control, including discussion of the various types, and told whatever they chose would be provided free of charge.  About 75 percent chose the IUDs or implants.
    What the researchers found was a dramatic drop in unintended pregnancies and abortions. Over three years, the annual abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women. Compared to the national rate of 19.6, this is a reduction of up to 78 percent.
    Study participants also had abortions at less than half the rate of women in the surrounding areas of St. Louis city and county. The rate of teen pregnancy was also dramatically reduced, to 6.3 per thousand, compared to a U.S. rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for girls the same age.
    You might say it is not surprising that more contraception translates into fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions. What’s surprising is that those who consider themselves so strongly opposed to abortion are also opposed to a proven method of reducing by more than half the number of abortions.
    Page 2 of 2 - We understand some people regard contraception, especially through IUDs and other methods through which a fertilized egg may be prevented from implantation in the uterine wall, as the moral equivalent of abortion. They have a right to those beliefs, but no right to impose them on individuals or government policy.
    MetroWest Daily News, Mass.
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