Make You Have Riskier Sex

Rolling back the federal birth control mandate could lead to increases in teen pregnancies and abortions, experts say.

Abigail Abrams

October 13, 2017

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

When President Donald Trump’s administration recently issued new rules immediately rolling back the federal requirement that employers cover birth control in their health insurance plans, it not only cited religious freedom concerns, but also cast doubt on the safety and effectiveness of contraception.

In the rules, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration listed side effects and health risks it said can be associated with certain types of contraception, and said it may not “advance the government interests” to mandate birth control access to teenagers and young adults. “Imposing a coverage Mandate on objecting entities whose plans cover many enrollee families who may share objections to contraception could, among some populations, affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way,” the rules said.

But scientists and health care providers who study contraception have found that birth control coverage does not lead to riskier sexual behavior. “There is no evidence to support the idea that giving contraception promotes sexual activity,” says Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Indiana University School of Medicine, who has studied the effects of contraceptives. “These are myths that are to the detriment of public health. I would argue that not providing contraception is clearly increased risk-taking behavior.”

In 2014, Peipert and his colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis published research that found that providing women with no-cost contraception did not increase the likelihood of riskier sexual behavior. In fact, researchers found a statistically significant decrease in the number of sexual partners people reported from the last month, and they found no evidence of increased sexually transmitted infections.

The analysis was part of a large study called the Contraceptive Choice Project, in which more than 9,000 women and teen girls in the St. Louis area were given the reversible birth control method of their choice, free of charge, and told about the benefits of long-acting contraceptives like IUDs and implants. Rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion fell significantly among all age groups in the study—particularly for teens. Rates of abortion and pregnancy among teens in the study dropped to less than a quarter of the national rates for sexually active teenagers.