Free birth control has little effect on sexual behavior
Free contraception provided to women is not likely to increase risky sexual behavior over time, according to a new study.
The research comes as a response to critics of the idea of free contraception, who say that the availability of birth control has a direct relationship with the prevalence of risky sexual behavior and unintended pregnancies. In the new study, scientists looked at data of more than 7,500 women between ages 14 and 45 living in St. Louis. At the start of the study, all participants expressed that they wanted to avoid pregnancy for at least one year. Researchers explained to them the benefits and risks of different contraception methods and had the participants answer questions about their past and current sexual behaviors.
The results of the study showed that, six to 12 months after receiving free contraception, there was no effect on the number of sexual partners among approximately 70 percent of the women in the study. About 13 percent of the women reported a decrease in number of sexual partners, and about 16 percent reported a relatively small increase.
The research team that conducted the study said that their findings, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, suggest that free effective contraception methods may reduce unintended pregnancy. Researchers concluded that factors involving women’s decision-making primarily affect sexual behavior, not availability of contraception.