Unplanned pregnancies are a significant problem in the United States. According to a 2012 Brookings Institution report, more than 90 percent of abortions occur due to an unintended pregnancy.
Each year, about 50 percent of all pregnancies that occur in the United States are not planned
, a number far higher than is reported in other developed countries. About half of these pregnancies result from women not using contraception and the other half from incorrect or irregular use.
A study by investigators at Washington University reports that providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate
The Contraceptive Choice Project enrolled 9,256 women and adolescents in the St. Louis area between 2007 and 2011. Participants were at risk for unintended pregnancy and willing to start a new contraceptive method.
The lower abortion rate among study participants is considerably less than those in St. Louis city and county, which ranged from 13.4 to 17 per 1,000 women for the same years. Among girls ages 15 to 19 who had access to free birth control, the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000, far below the U.S. rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for girls the same age.
“Unintended pregnancy remains a major health problem in the United States, with higher proportions among teenagers and women with less education and lower economic status,” says lead author Jeffrey Peipert, MD, a Washington University obstetrician and gynecologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “The results of this study demonstrate that we can reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy, and this is key to reducing abortions in this country.”