Providing women with access to no-cost contraception doesn’t spur them to make riskier sexual choices, according to a large study published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal this week. The researchers who collected the data noted that their results should dispel social conservatives’ fears that the risk of pregnancy is “the only thing standing between women and promiscuity.”
The study is part of the ongoing Contraceptive CHOICE project, a research initiative at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that has been tracking nearly 10,000 low-income women of reproductive age for several years. The women participating in the project received an FDA-approved contraceptive of their choice at no additional cost to them.
In 2012, the researchers confirmed that this policy — which simulates the Obamacare provision that extends birth control coverage without a co-pay — effectively helped lower these women’s rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. Then, the researchers conducted a follow-up investigation into other aspects of the participants’ sexual behavior, surveying them about their number of sexual partners and the frequency of sexual intercourse during the year after they received their free birth control.
Most of the women did report that they were having sex more frequently — but they were doing it safely. The majority of participants, 70 percent, reported that there was no difference in the number of their sexual partners. The women who did report an increase were most likely to have gone from zero sexual activity to a sole sexual partner. There also weren’t any increased rates of sexually transmitted infections among the group that got no-cost contraception.