Women's health activists have long associated birth control pills with fewer abortions.
Now, a new study has linked free contraception to the same--but in a twist, birth control pills weren't found to be the best protection.
In the study, researchers gave free birth control to more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, USA Today reported.
Afterward, the researchers found a dramatic decrease in abortion rates and teen pregnancies in the group studied. Most of the participants skipped pills though in favor of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants.
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The findings come as free birth control is becoming available to many more women under a provision of the federal health care law.
That provision has been strongly opposed by Catholic Church officials, who argue that giving women free birth control violates "religious freedom," the Associated Press reported. But the Catholic Church is obviously also strongly opposed to abortions, putting its views at odds with each other.
"As a society, we want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion rates. This study has demonstrated that having access to no-cost contraception helps us get to that goal," Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the AP.
The researchers were stunned that 58 percent of the participants opted to skip birth control pills in favor of IUDs, since only 8.5 percent of US women in the general population choose the devices, USA Today reported.
But data suggests that IUDs fail 20 times less often than pills.
Researchers think that cost has been a "significant barrier" for most women to use IUDs, WebMD reported.