Free birth control does not result in “riskier sexual behaviour”

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New research has found there is little scientific evidence that providing no-cost contraceptives for women in the US results in increased sexual behaviour. The study, undertaken by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, suggests that such claims in the conservative media are largely false.

Researchers analysed data from the contraceptive CHOICE Project, in which 9,256 women seen at high risk of unintentional pregnancy were offered free birth control and observed over a year long period. The women studied ranged from 14 to 45, with only thirty-two per cent having a high school education. 39 per cent had trouble funding basic living costs and 35 per cent received public support. Participants were informed of their contraceptive choices but were allowed to choose their preferred method, without being charged.

“Providing no-cost contraception did not result in riskier sexual behaviour,” says Robert J. Terry, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In fact, the percentage of participants reporting more than one sexual partner declined throughout the study, from 5.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent at the end of 12 months.

Senior researcher Jeffrey Peipert emphasised that the study proves that “it’s not the contraception that drives their [the participants] sexual behaviour”: quite a different view from the conservative media’s continual ‘slut-shaming’ of women in the US, particularly those who have argued for government funded free birth control under the new Obama Care bill.

Rush Limbaugh was singled out as inspiration for the study for his claim that free contraception would lead to increased promiscuity among women. On his popular radio talk show, Limbaugh unashamedly labelled law student Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ for claiming she could not afford contraception. Fluke had given testimony to Congress about her economic status as a law student and the need for birth control for both reproductive and medical reasons.

“The point of the analysis is to provide data and evidence, rather than to make claims based on opinion or personal points of view or beliefs. Our study provides evidence”, said Peipert.

by Alice Key

I am a final year political science student at the University of Birmingham. My main areas of written interest are feminism, British Politics and student protest movements. I hope to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.

Photograph by anqa, via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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