Among Missouri Republicans, ideology has long trumped fact-based research, and this time women and girls are the collateral damage.
Last month, Missouri’s Republican led legislature passed legislation that allows employers to dictate whether women can receive contraceptive coverage through their insurance companies. The legislation was vetoed, but the Republicans in the legislature successfully led an effort to over-ride the veto anyway.
Democratic lawmakers were incensed.
"Birth control is basic health care and is an economic issue for Missouri women and families," said Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur. "To make a woman pay for birth control on top of premium payments has real economic consequences."
But now science shows Rep. Schupp is right. In a study to be published in the December issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers "recruited more than 9,250 women ages fourteen to forty-five from St. Louis city and county for the five-year project" and educated them on different types of birth control. Seventy-five percent of the women chose implantable methods.
Five years later, the women included in the study had had nearly five times fewer abortions than the national average would have predicted, and and the rate of teenage pregnancies fell by an astounding 82%.
If Republicans get out of the way of public health and allow free contraception to be implemented nationwide, researchers concluded free birth control could prevent over a million unplanned pregnancies and over 800,000 abortions a year.
But Republicans would simply block this type of contraception coverage, with Republican led legislatures across the country working to criminalize common forms of birth control and threatening women's jobs if they seek out contraception on their own dime. And just this week, Virginia Republicans have indicated that the GOP's nationwide assault on contraception coverage will continue after the election.
Most importantly, the St. Louis study could mark an important turning point in the national debate over women's health. For the first time, Republican bills to block contraception coverage can be accurately described the way they should have been all along: "pro-abortion."
We have an opportunity to reduce the number of abortions and teenage pregnancies in the United States, but Republicans are letting rhetoric trump research and facts.