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Filler: Could free birth control help solve the unwanted pregnancy problem?

Ortho Evra, the first once-a-week birth control patch.

Ortho Evra, the first once-a-week birth control patch. Credit: Getty Images, 2004

What if we admitted that abortion is not the problem?

What if we acknowledged that unwanted pregnancy is the problem, and abortion is a solution to it that most us, to a greater or lesser degree, understand isn’t a good one.

A study was released last week that brings that question into very sharp focus. For five years in St. Louis, more than 9,000 teenage girls and women ages 14 to 45 were given free birth control along with family-planning education. The results were extraordinary, perhaps even paradigm changing.

Their rate of pregnancy dropped dramatically below the national rate. The rate of teenage pregnancy among girls participating in the program was 6.3 per 1000, compared with 34.3 per 1000 nationally.

And since, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned nationally -- and about half of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion -- it implies that widespread free birth control and family planning education could reduce abortions in this country by 75 percent.

Would it increase promiscuity? I don’t think so, but beyond that, I don’t think promiscuity as a social ill reaches the level of unplanned pregnancy or abortion.

But what I do know is that lives can be ruined by unplanned pregnancies, particularly the lives of young girls, whether they end with an abortion they will carry emotionally with them for life or a baby they cannot properly care for.

The results of this study are simply facts. They are not political, or moral, although they certainly carry political overtones and highlight a moral course of action.

I believe that, as a society, we should make absolutely certain that every woman who wants it has easy access to birth control that is either cheap or free, and we ought to be able to create a very wide coalition of groups to engender it.

The federal governments and the states should be crunching the numbers to see how much money providing free birth control costs, and comparing it against the spending that unwanted pregnancy occurs. Private organizations whose beliefs allow for it should consider being part of this real, workable improvement.

The way to drastically reduce, and someday perhaps all but eliminate abortion, does not lie in the courtrooms, or protesting outside abortion clinics, or holding prayer vigils, or cutting off funding.

It lies in ending unwanted pregnancy via birth control and education.

Pictured above: Ortho Evra, a once-a-week birth control patch.