The results of this study are really just a confirmation of what we already know: That providing services, options and information to people about contraception can reduce unintended pregnancy, and thus reduce the number of abortions. A research team in Norway looked at four cities there. In two of those cities, the researchers offered women between the ages of 20 and 24 free contraceptives for one year–in the other two cities they did not. Although free contraception didn’t necessarily increase the percentage of women who used contraception (93%), it did increase the consistency of use. Women who received free contraception of their choice (pills, injections, contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, IUDs, implants, hormone spirals and copper spirals were offered) were more likely to use their method of choice more consistently than women who had to purchase their own contraception, and also reported being happier with the method they were using when they could choose whatever they wanted without consideration of price. More consistent contraceptive use means fewer unintended pregnancies, and the two cities that were getting this service saw their abortion rate decline by 50% in the year of the study.
While it’s hard to imagine the US offering free contraception anytime in the immediate future (can you visualize the exploding heads all over Washington, D.C.?), maybe it’s time to consider this as an option. If our real goal is to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, expanding (or creating, in some states) a free contraception program seems not only logical but imperative. Of course, this is only one study, but I feel sure that the results could easily be replicated elsewhere. Maybe conducting more studies like this, then, would be a good next step.