Providing free, reliable birth control to teenagers cut the teenage abortion rate by a third in Finland, according to a new study published in BMJ Open. The link between birth control access and lower abortion rates is hardly news to reproductive justice advocates. After all, the entire purpose of birth control is to prevent unwanted pregnancies—the primary contributors to abortion. This study is just one more piece of evidence that Republican opposition to birth control, abortion, and affordable health care is really just opposition to women’s healthcare. The war on choice is really about the belief that women’s lives don’t matter.
Reducing Teen Pregnancy in Finland
The retrospective longitudinal study gathered data on pregnancies to women under the age of 20 between 2000 and 2018 in Finland. While healthcare is free in Finland, each municipality decides which contraceptives to offer, and to which age group. Most offer some form of free contraceptives, but the availability of specific options and the hoops a teenager has to jump through to get them vary greatly.
Researchers found that municipalities offering free contraceptives with few or no conditions in a wide variety of options had the lowest abortion rate.
The study highlights stark contrasts to life for teenagers in the United States, where healthcare is costly and inaccessible. Even the least supportive municipalities in Finland offer far more free contraceptive options than a typical teenager would encounter in the United States. So offering free contraceptives to teens in the U.S. would almost certainly produce an even more significant drop in the number of teenagers visiting abortion clinics.
The Strong Association Between Free Health Care and Fewer Abortions
Other research supports the notion that offering free or affordable birth control lowers the abortion rate in the United States. One, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that free birth control could lower the abortion rate by 41% to 71%. Another suggests that a recent decline in the abortion rate is thanks to more birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And nations across the country have seen their abortion and maternal death rates skyrocket under Trump’s Mexico City Policy, which removed funding for family planning clinics.
Republicans oppose every policy that could lower the abortion rate. That’s because anti-choice politics are about punishing (and potentially killing) women. Protecting life has never been the goal.