Surprise, Surprise: Increased Contraceptive Use Leads to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies

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Who would have guessed? Increased use of contraceptives is accompanied by a decline in abortions and unintended pregnancies, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. Researchers found that women who use birth control methods consistently and correctly make up only 5 percent of unplanned pregnancies

Other key findings from the report:

  • The use of long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARC) methods, such as IUDs, has increased to almost 12 percent of contraceptive users, its highest level ever.
  • Though only 2.4 percent of contraceptive users depended on LARCs in 2002,  that number was 3.7 percent by 2007 and 8.5 percent by 2009, reflecting a rapid growth.
  • From 2011 to 2013, 90 percent of American women aged 15–44 who did not wish to become pregnant used contraceptives.
  • LARCs are now the third most commonly used reversible contraceptives, after the pill (26 percent of users) and condoms (15 percent).

And while all of this was happening, the U.S. abortion rate steadily declined 13 percent between 2008 and 2011. Anti-choicers like to credit the decline to increased abortion restrictions at the state level, but this reduction actually predates all of the recent TRAP laws. On top of that, the abortion decline happened alongside a sudden drop in births, proving that pregnancies overall were down. 

It’s worth noting that one of the many, many baffling stances of the anti-choice movement is its opposition to various contraceptive methods. If they care so much about reducing the number of abortions, it would be logical to promote the heck out of birth control and family-planning policies that are proven to reduce abortion rates. Right? But no. Anti-choicers consistently  oppose women’s access to affordable and safe reproductive care.

The good news is that Obama administration policies are protecting women and our reproductive rights, despite anti-choice action. Guttmacher predicts that with the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, we can expect an even further drop in unintended pregnancies as more and more women have access to birth control. The percentage of privately insured women who paid nothing out of pocket for birth control pills jumped from 15 percent to an astounding 67 percent after the ACA went into effect.

The report concluded by saying:

Policymakers should respect Americans’ wishes by protecting recent gains in contraceptive access and not erecting new barriers that raise the cost of birth control or otherwise interfere with women’s ability to use the contraceptive method that is right for them.

We couldn’t agree more.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Shelby W. via Creative Commons 2.0.




Associate editor of Ms. magazine