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Free Birth Control Access Can Reduce Abortion Rate by More Than Half

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Image courtesy of iStockphoto/drkskmn

Earlier this year, the Affordable Care Act began requiring private insurance agencies to offer many contraceptives at no cost to consumers. This change was an effort to remove cost as an obstacle to women to choose to use birth control. It might also have the added benefit of reducing abortion rates, according to new research published online October 4 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The study found that the availability to free contraception caused a drop in teen birth rates and cut the rate of abortions for all participants by more than half. “The impact of providing no-cost birth control was far greater than we expected,” Jeff Peipert, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, and study co-author, said in a statement.

For the study, Peipert and his colleagues recruited 9,256 women and adolescent girls, aged 14 to 45, in the St. Louis area who were at particular risk for unintended pregnancies and who wanted to avoid pregnancy for at least a year. Those who opted to participate in the three-year study had the choice of either shorter-acting methods, such as pills, vaginal rings or patches or long-acting reversible methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants. The IUDs consist of a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus, and the implant is a thin plastic strip that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm; both require insertion in the doctor’s office. Study participants received their chosen method (with the option to change methods) at no cost. After learning about the risks and benefits of all types, 75 percent of the women chose the longer-acting IUDs and implants (particularly because of their low failure rate and not having to rely on regular adherence and need to seek replacements).

Abortion rates among study participants were below 7.6 per 1,000—less than half of the national rate of 19.6 per 1,000—even though the study participants were considered to be at higher risk than the general population. These rates suggest that the same free birth control options available nation wide would prevent one abortion for every 137 or fewer women and teens who participated, say the researchers. Teens in the study had babies (the majority of which come from unintended pregnancies) at a rate lower than one fifth of the national average: 6.3 per 1,000 in the study and 34.3 per 1,000 in the U.S.

The study followed the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations that all U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods be available to women without cost under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The group’s report also noted that women should receive “a fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods and services so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies and space their pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes.” The researchers estimate that if a similar program were rolled out nationwide, more than 40 percent of the more-than 1 million abortions received annually (pdf) would be avoided (a slightly smaller drop because the study participants were a high-risk subgroup of the population).

“We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUDs and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country,” Peipert said.

Although birth-control subsidies involve upfront costs, in the long run they offer savings—every 1 million unintended births cost taxpayers $11 billion each year, according to a 2011 study in Contraception. The rate of unintended pregnancies in the U.S.—49 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—far exceeds that of most developed countries. Most women in the U.S. rely on birth control pills for contraception, which is less expensive upfront but less reliable than IUDs and implants, which require an outlay of at least $800 but remain effective for three or more years.

Katherine Harmon Courage About the Author: Katherine Harmon Courage is a freelance writer and contributing editor for Scientific American. Her book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea is out now from Penguin/Current. Follow on Twitter @KHCourage.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. sjn 6:33 pm 10/4/2012

    Yet more data that shows
    1) THe Affordable Care Act will help large numbers of people get access to preventative health care, thus reducing long term costs and improving quality of life.
    2) Contrary to Romney lies, our existing private insurance based health care lags far behind nearly all other developing countries in many key health statistics – beyond those quoted here we are far behind in infant mortality and life longevity

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  2. 2. Star Theory 9:44 am 10/5/2012

    Instead of having abortions or even birth control pills, don’t do “it” until you actually want a kid. Remember, the baby has life at the moment of conception.

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  3. 3. thefabulous0ne 2:03 pm 10/5/2012

    um, no, Star Theory, it does not have life. something that cannot live without it’s host does not have life of it’s own. and abstinence has proved to be a ridiculous and completely unrealistic plan. people are going to do “it”, my delusional friend, whether you like it or not.

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  4. 4. Mytwo Cents 2:10 pm 10/5/2012

    Star Theory: People that make statements like yours, show that the pro life movement is really a “Pro Lie” movement. It is never really about family planning, but about a woman having sex and having a baby when she is ready too. If pro lie were really pro life, you wouldn’t be against birth control. If pro lie were really pro life, you would all have lobbied for universal health care long ago, in order to take care of all those “babies” you claim to want to save. In reality, all you really care about is people having sex, namely women, when they want to.

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  5. 5. tucanofulano 3:14 pm 10/5/2012

    Two wrongs do not make a right. When women sleep around they sometimes get pregnant; if so they should not get away with the murder of their fetus.

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  6. 6. FarScout 3:17 pm 10/5/2012

    How are we calling the pills free? We have to pay for them. Actually, now we have to pay for more of them than before. How is it fair to force me to pay for someone’s personal mistakes?

    We haven’t actually had private healthcare in a long, long time. The private insurance companies can’t even compete across state lines. How can the private sector (aka people like you and me) hope to bring competition (thus providing better and better health care for cheaper and cheaper prices) if we aren’t even allowed to compete, create alternative health care options, and not have to provide “free” bc pills?

    The only free birth control is responsibility. Use your head! If people are dumb enough to not take responsibility, then they should take accountability. Taking accountability means owning and solving your own problems. At some point, liberals and social conservatives will run out of other people’s money to solve problems they can solve themselves.

    I guess when people say they’re “pro-choice” they really only mean when it comes to abortions. They don’t want us to have choice in anything else like healthcare, what light bulbs we can use, how I use my property,…

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  7. 7. tucanofulano 4:18 pm 10/5/2012

    Bumper sticker;

    “If you voted for our current president in 2008 to prove you’re not a racist,
    please vote for someone else this year to prove you’re not an idiot”

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  8. 8. Mytwo Cents 4:51 pm 10/5/2012

    Pro Liars, spin it any way you want, what you want is women, to be neglected and denied options for their own reproductive rights. When a woman pays for birth control, you advocate pharmacists do not sell it to them for personal beliefs. Pro liars are the deniers of freedom and liberty of an individual, not pro choice. Choice does not mean abortion. Since this article is about birth control, every one of your rants show you really can’t stand consenting adults having sex. You really love the idea of pregnancy as a deterrent to sex. I would pity you, the pro liar, if you were not so dangerous to others.

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  9. 9. Bill_Crofut 6:41 pm 10/5/2012

    Re: “We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUDs and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country,” Peipert said.

    If the information available to me is correct, the iud, as with most “contraceptive” methods of birth control, is abortifacient.

    As for the standard denial of the beginning of life, allow me to share the following:

    “Life begins, not at birth, but at conception, and what happens in the interval between conception and birth is very much more important for our subsequent growth and development than we have, until recently, realized.”

    [Ashley Montagu. 1964. Life Before Birth. New York: Signet, p. vii]

    As a side note, the Forword was written by Alan F. Guttmacher, M.D.

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  10. 10. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 10:31 pm 10/5/2012

    @ Bill_Crofut: Wow, I thought that you only trolled on articles that disproved creationism and your wierd, baseless geocentrist views. It just goes to show, a reactionary’s a reactionary, and a quote-mining crackpot’s a quote-mining crackpot. There’s a reason that you’ve been banned from Tet Zoo.
    Here’s my rebuttal:
    1. You are not a trustworthy source of information.
    2. If you had done one iota of research, you would have noticed that most contraceptives, not only IUDs and oral pills, are non-abortifacient (not that it matters).
    3. Most pregnancies (I forget the exact number, around two-thirds) abort spontaneously, often before symptoms are evident. Therefore, a few artificial abortions don’t actually have that much of an overall effect.
    4. The anti-abortion position is inherently religious in nature, and this intrusion of religion into the personal lives of non-religious people or people of different faiths, not to mention the intrusion into government, is unconstitutional, as well as ethically unsound.

    Thank you for being a moron again. Please bleep off.

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  11. 11. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 10:38 pm 10/5/2012

    @ sjn: Everyone knows that Romney is a misogynistic pathological liar; you didn’t need to craft an arguement to say that. As everyone who uses social media now knows, he said that he will kill Big Bird by defunding PBS (not his actual words, but close enough). I can’t wait to see Colbert’s inevitable episode about that incident.
    That said, your agruement shows that you are more intelligent than the 47% of the country that votes for Romney even though he despises them. (I know that the ~47% in the polls and the 47% from the speech are different, but there is significant overlap)

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  12. 12. Don Quixote 8:50 am 10/6/2012

    When someone starts out their argument with “everyone knows”, that’s a huge red flag for “here comes whatever I want to say that I really have no idea if it’s true or not, but after all, everybody knows…” And of course you needn’t “craft an argument to say that”. And again, “as everyone who uses social media knows…” You seem to not have an original thought in your bobble head and rely on what “social media” knows. Really? I’m supposed to just accept what you say because you saw it on Twitter?! Well how about this: You’re an unthinking idiot. Boom! I said it in a blog of a well-respected soft science journal therefore it must be true! After all, everybody knows….(you’re a moron)

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  13. 13. outsidethebox 9:13 am 10/6/2012

    It would be a stretch, to put it mildly, to believe the women agreeing to participate in this study are truly representative of all women who might have abortions. Their very choosing to participate indicates that. This is appears to me to be be a very unscientific, scientific study.

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  14. 14. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 9:38 am 10/6/2012

    @ Don Quixote: The clip of Romney saying that he would defund PBS went viral on Facebook. I ran a Google search for “mitt romney kill big bird” three hours after the debate (long story), and got over 100,000 “highly relevant” (I use a rather nice relevance filter program) hits.
    I think that anyone who calls me a moron, without being familiar with me or my work, is the actual moron. You haven’t done actual research, don’t have relatives who’ve been on Facebook virtually nonstop crowing over Romney’s idiocy (hey, we’re a liberal family), and therefore are yourself an unoriginal far-right bobbleheaded racist, sexist pig. And furthermore, I am the only person in my family who doesn’t use social media.
    Go **** yourself, reactionary troll.

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  15. 15. Don Quixote 11:24 am 10/6/2012

    Nice! I’ve never been called a reactionary troll, I almost like it. At least that was an original thought. The “unoriginal far-right bobbleheaded racist, sexist pig”, well, except for the boobleheaded part, is typical. You’ve said nothing substantial…again.
    As for actual study, you never even said anything about it. I actually thought the results were pretty telling, though I agree with outsidethebox that the sample was not a representative one. It doesn’t what I think though. I still don’t want to pay for anyone else’s contraception nor their abortion. I still think people should be responsible for themselves, not society as a whole. I still think that people who think these ideas are good are the ones who should pay for them (ideas so good they have to mandated…), and I still think that with the exception of the “reactionary troll” comment, you haven’t said anything intelligent. You were also the one who used “everybody knows”, one of the many universal statements for “I follow the herd”. As for the use of social media, your most assuredly implied in your first statement that you do use social media, not in keeping with your second statement. In fact, even in your second post you didn’t say anything intelligent (your family “crows” on facebook?). So, I’m done here. You can definitely have the last word, because I’m sure you won’t be able to resist. It would have been nice though if politics would have been left out of this blog. It’ll be strange after the election, regardless of who wins to see how you and I interact. “Everyone knows” it will all be good, especially if the current administration gets four more years…. :-)

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  16. 16. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:34 am 10/6/2012

    Oh, you like my creative insults, Knight of Rags and Tatters? My personal favorite was when I called a BANDit a “tiny-minded buffoon”. You don’t quite qualify for that yet, but you are a troll and a reactionary conservative.

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  17. 17. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:38 am 10/6/2012

    As for your arguement about not wanting to pay for others’ contraceptives–think about it from the standpoint of a poor woman without money for prescription contraceptives. I understand the problems that the conservative minions of Ryan and Romney have with the Affordable Care Act and some of its provisions, but, as both someone who will be directly be benefited by the act and a person whose mother witnessed the sheer nastiness of insurance companies firsthand during her time as a paralegal, I must say that such concerns are outweighed by the good results of the act at best, and unfounded at worst.

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  18. 18. Bill_Crofut 1:01 pm 10/6/2012

    Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek (comment 10),

    It’s interesting to me that in other venues where we’ve “discussed” the burning issues of the day, you have as yet provided no refutation of my creationist or geocentric views in any substantive way. Yet, that’s probably because my views are so far off the mark that refuting them would be a waste of your time. Please accept my apology.

    Re: “You are not a trustworthy source of information.”

    You’ll get no argument from me. That’s the reason for “quote mining” whatever that means.

    Re: “2. and 3.”

    Perhaps you’d be willing to share the research you’ve done to refute my understanding.

    Re: “The anti-abortion position is inherently religious in nature…”

    You’ll have to excuse my ignorance on this issue as well. It’s my understanding that in a “democracy” even those of us who profess “religious fanaticism” have the right to express those views in the public forum.

    Re: “Thank you for being a moron again.”

    That statement should have been worded, “Thank you for being a moron in perpetuity.”

    Re: “Please bleep off.”


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  19. 19. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 3:05 pm 10/6/2012

    @ Crofut:
    “It’s interesting to me that in other venues where we’ve “discussed” the burning issues of the day, you have as yet provided no refutation of my creationist or geocentric views in any substantive way. Yet, that’s probably because my views are so far off the mark that refuting them would be a waste of your time. Please accept my apology.”

    Thank you.

    “Re: “You are not a trustworthy source of information.””

    “You’ll get no argument from me. That’s the reason for “quote mining” whatever that means.”

    There’s a Wikipedia article on it.

    “Re: “2. and 3.”

    Perhaps you’d be willing to share the research you’ve done to refute my understanding.”

    Again, Wikipedia is your friend.

    “Re: “The anti-abortion position is inherently religious in nature…”

    You’ll have to excuse my ignorance on this issue as well. It’s my understanding that in a “democracy” even those of us who profess “religious fanaticism” have the right to express those views in the public forum.”

    You do not, however, have the right to enact legislation forcing those views on others (“personhood” ammendments, etc.).

    “Re: “Thank you for being a moron again.”

    That statement should have been worded, “Thank you for being a moron in perpetuity.””

    Correct. If I could edit my comment, I would.

    “Re: “Please bleep off.”


    Sooner rather than later, please.

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  20. 20. cccampbell38 5:54 pm 10/6/2012

    Maybe, instead of contraception, we should be talking about evolution. Or rather the apparent lack of it in some.

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  21. 21. Bill_Crofut 11:53 am 10/8/2012

    Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek,

    Re: “You do not, however, have the right to enact legislation forcing those views on others (“personhood” ammendments, etc.).”

    Personhood is not an amendment; it’s a fact (reread the Montagu text). Do you wish your mother had been anti-life when pregnant with you?

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  22. 22. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 4:51 pm 10/8/2012

    @ Bill_Crofut:
    The term is pro-choice, she is and was, and personhood is a pile of horse dung (got to remember that phrase). I am fully pro-choice, just as I am against airport security theater, and would be even if a family member was killed in an airplane bombing.

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  23. 23. IslandGardener 5:51 pm 10/8/2012

    Dear oh dear oh dear.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if people could remember some basic courtesy?

    Back to the actual subject under discussion.

    Abortion isn’t in itself a good thing, but it may in many circumstances be necessary. But if we can do something to reduce the number of abortions, because we’ve done something to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, how can that be anything other than a good thing?

    Paying for contraception for everybody is a lot cheaper than paying for abortions for people who get pregnant but don’t want to become parents, or paying for housing, food, education and healthcare for children who are born to parents who don’t want them.

    Yes of course if people want a 100% guarantee that they won’t become parents they should never have sex – but let’s be honest, how many people can manage that, and why should they be expected to do without sex?

    But the fact that people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ are usually against abortion even for people who’ve been raped gives away the fact that actually they don’t care about women’s rights, or children’s rights.

    If people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ cared more about the lives of people than about stopping people from having sex, then they would be pro-contraception. The sad fact that many of the people who are against abortion are also against contraception gives away the fact that actually what they want is to control people, especially women.

    Forcing people to become parents against their will is wrong, so it’s essential that people have access to contraception and abortion.

    But it’s even more wrong to force children to be born to parents who don’t want them.

    If people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ really cared about children, they would understand that every child should be a wanted child.

    And for that to be a reality, people must be able to use contraception, and if their contraception fails, they must have the option of abortion available.

    If people do not have access to contraception and abortion, then more people will die in backstreet abortions, and more children will be born into misery. How can ‘pro-life’ people believe that either of those is an ethically acceptable outcome?

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  24. 24. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 5:56 pm 10/8/2012

    @ IslandGardener: Precisely. The anti-abortion viewpoint is insane any way you look at it.

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  25. 25. Bill_Crofut 12:42 pm 10/9/2012

    Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek,

    It doesn’t occur to me how anyone can legitimately claim to be “pro-choice” while also supporting abortion. If the information available to me is correct, there has not been a single instance in which an unborn woman in the womb has been given the choice of whether or not she will be allowed to be born.
    Regarding your not-so-complimentary description of personhood, please reread the Montagu text.

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  26. 26. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 1:20 pm 10/9/2012

    @ Crofut the geocentrist:
    Montagu is frankly an idiot (and I should refrain from using that word, even when it’s true). What IslandGardener says is also what I believe; that abortion should be, as Clinton said, “Safe, legal, and rare.”

    If the information available to me is correct, “personhood” amendments legally make pregnant women less than human, by valuing their lives less than the dependent lives of their fetuses.

    For several reasons, including the reason above, anti-abortion people make me sick.

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  27. 27. Don Quixote 4:18 pm 10/9/2012

    So, if we are so diametrically opposed to each other’s stance, how do we find some sort of middle ground (or is there none)? You find my position abhorrent (at least what you think my position is, I haven’t stated it here), and I find yours to be enabling others to be the epitome of irresponsible and make me pay for it. How do we (as theoretically intelligent, educated, thinking people) find some acceptable position that we can both agree on? While I do think you’re a pain in the ass :-) , I don’t hate you, but I don’t support your position on abortion or “free” contraception or abortion. I would consider something like abortion up to 4 weeks (even six, though that personally makes me sick), “free” birth control in the form of condoms and if requested, sterilization. Partial birth abortion would be a non-starter. Is this too restrictive? I’m actually being serious, not a reactionary conservative troll this time. And my original post didn’t have anything to do with the topic (my bad), only on your use of the phrase “everybody knows”.

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  28. 28. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 4:47 pm 10/9/2012

    @ Don Quixote: Yes, it is too restrictive. Most women don’t know that they are pregnant until at least four weeks in. There should be no restrictions on abortion until 24 weeks at the bare minimum.

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  29. 29. IslandGardener 5:18 pm 10/9/2012

    Thanks Don Quixote for the attempt to find some middle ground.

    Sadly I find your position too restrictive because – as Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek says – 4 weeks isn’t a long enough time to discover that you’re pregnant, to make a very hard decision, and then to organise an abortion, if you’re not ready or willing to become a parent and don’t think it would be in the best interests of the potential child, yourself, or the other parent.

    So would it be possible for you to agree with my starting position, that every child should be a wanted child, so they have the best chance of a happy healthy start in life?

    If we could agree on that, then perhaps we could then start to discuss how we can reach that position.

    Perhaps the next step would be to agree that in an ideal world people would only have sex with people they were prepared to have children with, but accept that things are sometimes not like that, so we should make sure contraception is available to them.

    The tricky stage – indeed I suspect the sticking point – may come after that, if we try to discuss our views of the potential child (and therefore one of the most important factors to consider in the ethics of abortion).
    I’m not going to pretend that a foetus / embryo / unborn child isn’t alive, and I can see the argument that we consider life to begin at conception.
    But I do think it helps to see them as more potential people than people, because there is a gradual change (and perhaps it’s impossible to define what the difference is let alone any single point when it happens) from a single cell through a ball of undifferentiated cells and on to a point at which we have a sentient, conscious being – even if full self-consciousness doesn’t arrive till sometime after birth.

    The difficult bit, I think, is that I still think it would be better to have an abortion at a relatively late stage (however we define it)if that would prevent a child being forced to be born to, for example, cruel abusive parents.

    For me, the interests of that potential child are paramount, and next come the rights of the potential parents not to be forced into parenthood.

    Does this help at all?

    Thanks again.

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  30. 30. tremain2004 7:21 pm 10/9/2012

    How much does a rubber cost?
    This is nonsence.
    If they are concerned, they will address the issue
    People who have no idea how to address a problem think money is the answer.
    If this worked it would be fine
    Clean up the gene pool

    Eliminate the dumist, the progressies

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  31. 31. Bill_Crofut 11:27 am 10/10/2012

    Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek (comment 26),

    Re: “Montagu is frankly an idiot…”

    Of course.

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  32. 32. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:44 am 10/10/2012

    @ Bill_Crofut: Hey, you discredit everything I say, I return the favor. Fair’s fair. And I wouldn’t trust Montagu to cure a cold.

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  33. 33. Daniel35 5:35 pm 10/10/2012

    It seems the monitors here haven’t been doing their jobs very well.

    I think there should be a lot more talk about better male contraceptives. One form that was said to be used in early Roman times, and perhaps before, involves a bit of body piercing, which doesn’t seem to be that objectionable these days, and I don’t mean vasectomies. The man had a small hole cut in the bottom of the penis, near the scrotum, into the urethra. When it healed, a tube could be inserted to conduct fluids to the head of the penis, or removed for semen to go out the new hole, instead of into the vagina. A bit messier maybe, but we should be able to live with that. For more security, one might want a plug for the head of the penis, or a T-shaped tube with one arm blocked. Perhaps it would include a small reservoir with a rubber balloon.

    I’m happy to say that my partner and I are beyond the age of needing such.

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  34. 34. Bill_Crofut 3:59 pm 10/11/2012

    Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek (comment 32),

    Fair enough.

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  35. 35. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:00 pm 10/11/2012

    @ Bill: Great. Good that we understand that, while we’re both more polite than certain people who I could mention, we can’t understand each other’s views.

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  36. 36. mllmaryles 10:03 am 10/14/2012

    “We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUDs and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country,” Peipert said.

    Because of epilepsy and flowing female chemicals in the brain, my seizures are unquestionably related to the hormones in my body.

    Using IUD’s and other methods besides THE PILL is a great idea, just because of the effect THE PILL has on the female body and mind for that matter.

    As for the subject matter…, Thanks Katherine Harmon, a tough one, but with the number of unwanted pregnancies on our world, the subject of BIRTH CONTROL sounds much more practical than some other methods used. mll

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  37. 37. IslandGardener 6:32 am 10/15/2012

    Tremain 2004 (comment 30)

    Sorry, but you’re making three mistakes.

    The first is the assumption that because contraception is relatively cheap that makes it easy for everybody to use.
    We need family planning clinics and support for everybody, especially the poorest, most vulnerable and least powerful, who may find it hard to get contraception.
    I’m a big fan of Lucy Mangan who writes for the Guardian here in Britain. Her columns are usually very funny as well as sharply satirical. But this week’s is almost a laugh-free zone, which suggests that this is something she feels so strongly about she can’t find many laughs in it.

    The second mistake is your weird assumption that people who are too stupid to use contraception will end up leaving fewer progeny than the rest of us. I assume this was what you meant by the offensive words ‘Clean up the gene pool Eliminate the dumist, the progressies’. Or was this what you think of as a joke?

    Your third mistake is of course the assumption that the only factor affecting people is their genetic makeup, which is again I assume why you say ‘Clean up the gene pool’. If people don’t use contraception, or do or don’t do almost anything else, their genes will of course be a factor in that, but they will only be one factor and in most cases a very minor one. When it comes to sex, I dare say most people’s genes would encourage behaviour to reproduce as much as possible. Far more significant in most cases will be their upbringing and the wider society they are born into and what their culture sees as normal.

    I suspect that we need education more than anything else – education in the widest sense, not just schools teaching some basic curriculum, but good public broadcasting, good newspapers, good books, good public libraries, good universities which anybody with the necessary ability can go to, good training – and a healthy environment and economy so that people feel confident in themselves and in the future, and can decide to have only one or two children without fear.

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  38. 38. dallasjoe1 2:18 pm 10/23/2012

    Reading some of the comments here, both pro and con makes me believe commenting on news stories should be outlawed. But since it’s still legal, I will add my own. First, let’s dispense with this notion of free birth control. It is more accurately subsidized birth control. It is cheaper to pay this subsidy now than for society to pay it later with the costs of lost potential, increased welfare rolls, unintended population growth, and increased crime. Whether in favor of this policy or not, all should be united in the belief that every child born should be wanted. This one change will not achieve that, but it is a start.

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