The Contraceptive Choice Project, a long-term research study by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is destroying a lot of commonly made Christian right claims about birth control. First it showed that offering free birth control to low-income women dramatically reduces abortion rates. Now it shows that free birth control does not increase risky sexual behavior.
Most of the women did report that they were having sex more frequently — but they were doing it safely. The majority of participants, 70 percent, reported that there was no difference in the number of their sexual partners. The women who did report an increase were most likely to have gone from zero sexual activity to a sole sexual partner. There also weren’t any increased rates of sexually transmitted infections among the group that got no-cost contraception.
“Increasing access to no-cost contraceptives doesn’t translate into riskier sexual behavior,” Jeffrey Peipert, the study’s senior author, explained. “It’s not the contraception that drives their sexual behavior.”
Indeed, even among the women who indicated that they wanted to start using birth control specifically so they could become sexually active, more than 45 percent had not actually started having sex after a year of using contraception.
The new research paper directly refutes arguments from groups like the right-wing Family Research Council, which argues that it’s important to restrict access to contraception todissuade teens from having sex. Nonetheless, the debate over Obamacare’s birth control provision has largely centered on this myth about female sexuality. Particularly after Sandra Fluke testified in favor of the policy, conservatives were quick to bash her for being a “slut” who wanted the government to finance her promiscuous sex life. Two years later, Republican lawmakers are still repeating this line of reasoning.
Once again, I say that birth control in this country should be absolutely free for everyone. It empowers women and gives them control over their reproduction, reduces unwanted pregnancies (and thus abortions), and ultimately will save us far more money than it costs to provide it for everyone.