In 2007 The Contraceptive CHOICE Project was launched in St. Louis. Nearly 10,000 women enrolled over four years and were offered the contraceptive method of their choice…absolutely free. When it was free, women were more likely to choose the more effective Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) methods, such as the IUD or Implant. Younger women also sought these methods more frequently than what is typically seen in the general population. Unfortunately, critics of the study believe that having CHOICE will lead to more promiscuity among females.
A recent study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the number of women having sex with more than one male partner actually declined 6 months after study initiation. Nearly 3/4 of the women in the study reported no change in the number of male sexual partners. However, pro-life activist Walter Hoye finds that the 16% of women who increased their number of sexual partners is particularly disturbing, especially since many of these young girls and women were virgins at the start of the study.
The suggestion that offering free contraception to girls and women encourages promiscuity is severely misleading and an attack on women’s sexual freedom. Offering women accessible and affordable contraception is imperative. If women do not have these options, the threat of unintended pregnancy is real. For the women who had been virgins at the start of the study, it is not clear if they were in monogamous relationships or not. Even so, if they were planning on becoming sexually active it was responsible of them to choose to protect themselves from pregnancy.
Having birth control on hand does not need to indicate you are having sex or have to be having sex, but for those women who might want to have sex ensuring that they are protected is smart and proactive. Only half of those women who were virgins upon study enrollment became sexually active over the course of the study. That means the other half was still not having sex. But if they choose to at some point, the free birth control option allows them to take ownership and be protected.
Today with the Affordable Care Act, free contraception is a reality for millions of American women. It is more important than ever to show that free birth control does not make women promiscuous. Removing barriers and giving women a contraceptive choice allows women to take an active role in their reproductive health and make informed decisions about their bodies. Women should not be misrepresented or condemned for these choices.