Over the past couple of days, I have researched abortion rates in relation to contraceptive access and abortion policies in the United States. Well, what do all these topics have to do with one another? I assumed that if women lacked access to contraceptives, then abortion rates would be higher in those communities. Where abortion policies were strict, then abortion rates would be low in those communities. However, results surprised me quite a bit.
What are Contraceptives? What are the Different Types?
In the United States, the FDA has approved 18 different types of contraceptives, also known as birth control. Contraceptives are designed to prevent pregnancy, but they have other uses such as:
- Regulating periods
- Reducing period cramps
- Lowering risk of ovarian & uterine cancer
- Improving acne & preventing unwanted hair growth
- Treating endometriosis or ovarian cysts
- Helping with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
The most commonly known contraceptives are condoms, IUDs, patches, ring, shots, or the pill. You can see the cost of each, their effectiveness, and how to use each in the infographic at the end of this blog post. The other FDA- approved contraceptives can be seen through the hyperlink. LARC (long–acting reversible contraceptive) methods are women’s preferred birth control because they are long–lasting, reversible, and most importantly, low maintenance. Due to this, LARC’s tend to be more expensive than other methods and harder to obtain.
State governments oversee laws pertaining to contraceptive access in their respective states, allowing for states to have different laws and regulations on birth control. More liberal states tend to have greater access to contraceptives than conservative states. However, across the United States, over 19 million women of reproductive age are in need of publicly funded contraception and live in contraceptive deserts, with97% of the 19 million women residing in a contraceptive desert.
What are contraceptive deserts?
A lack of reasonable access in a county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. A good example of a state with a high number of contraceptive deserts is Texas, which is one of the most conservative states in the country.
Living in contraceptive desert hinders the ability of women to obtain contraceptives; thus, more women participate in unprotected sex or use less effective methods. It is because of this that one would assume as contraceptive use increases that abortion rates would be decreasing proportionately.
The same way states can regulate contraceptive access, they also control abortion policies. Conservative states make it difficult for women to have access to abortion services through the creation and enforcement of strict laws. States can increase the cost of obtaining an abortion, prohibit coverage through healthcare, or establish parental involvement laws.
The studies displayed how these policies decreased accounted for abortion rates. A study conducted by Medoff concluded that increasing the cost of obtaining an abortion increases women’s incentive to avoid pregnancy. The same can be said for having little to no health coverage for abortions, since having to pay out of pocket would increase the incentive of avoiding pregnancy. However, all the studies mentioned a major limitation regarding abortion policies is that these numbers do not account for women traveling to other states to obtain an abortion or those done illegally and not documented.
While these policies decrease abortion numbers in the respective states, they do not consider the other routes women will take to have an abortion. According to the WHO, 2 to 7 million women survive unsafe abortions but will suffer long term damages or diseases, and at least 47,000 of these women will die during the procedure, as seen on the infographic. While the relationship between abortion policies and abortion rates is more significant than that of abortion rates and contraceptive access, millions of women’s reproductive rights are being impacted by both.
The POWER W(om)E(n) HOLD
Some proposals to decrease the amount of deaths from unsafe abortions and decreasing abortion rates altogether is to change the healthcare system that allows woman to obtain their preferred birth control and services that focus on family planning. As well as, voting out elected officials that continuously hurt women’s reproductive rights. There are petitions to sign and ways to contact elected officials to make your voice heard. Additionally, many non-profit healthcare providers such as Planned Parenthood help both men and women obtain reproductive health care at low costs in their states.