According to new study that surveyed nearly 8,000 women and teenage girls, no-cost access to birth control doesn't encourage women to engage in risky or "promiscuous" sexual behavior. Another related study conducted the same week (by me) finds that no-cost access to birth control does have one harmful effect on the populace: it continuously causes curmudgeonly Republican lawmakers to expel noxious whiffs of retrograde, sexist logic.
The study, which was published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal this week, tracked the sexual behavior of 7,751 women between the ages of 14 and 45, all of whom were given free birth control for a year. Notably, the researchers found that the women surveyed actually experienced a decrease in the amount of sexual partners: according to the LA Times, "While 5.2% of the women reported having more than one male sexual partner in the past 30 days upon recruitment, 3.5% did so at month six and 3.3% did so at month 12." For most women, it was business as usual — a whopping 70 percent reported no change in their number of sexual partners, 13 percent had fewer, and only 16 percent reported having more partners. The researchers also found that there was so increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases among study participants, indicating that they weren't guzzling whore pills and throwing caution into the wind with feverish abandon. Huh. Who would have guessed.
Obviously, there's nothing at all wrong with having multiple sexual partners. If a woman wants to put her contraception to good use by having safe sex with any number of individuals, that's her right — not to mention a really good time for all. However, conservative politicians and media figures have a malignant tendency to erroneously claim that free birth control leads to irresponsible sexual behavior, wanton teen sexing, or that it's somehow the equivalent of paying women to have sex. This week, Alaska State Sen. Fred Dyson argued against expanding family planning services in his state, claiming that doing so would amount to funding sexual "recreation" with taxpayer funds. (As we all know, it's unconscionable to think that depraved monsters could be out there fornicating on the taxpayer's dime — I mean, unplanned pregnancies are way more costly to taxpayers, but whatever. Sex fun, which is a direct result of contraceptive use, isn't something we can subsidize.)
This study is significant because disproves several alarmist and insidious right-wing myths about contraception access. "The notion that women will have sex with more partners if you give them free birth control didn't pan out in this study," said Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, the study's senior author. "It's not the contraception that drives [women's] sexual behavior." Yep. Duh. Now give us some goddamn birth control coverage.
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