Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rural and underserved areas could be hurt most if free contraception under health law is eliminated

President-elect Donald Trump's plan to repeal, or alter, federal health reform could cost women free birth control, especially in rural and undserved areas that rely on Planned Parenthood services. Trump's choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), has questioned the need for free contraception.

"Planned Parenthood provided birth control for more that 2 million people last year, 75 percent of those at income levels entitling them to subsidized women’s health care," Sheila Hagar reports for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. "A 2015 federal report predicted if government funding for birth control goes away, unintended pregnancies could cost taxpayers more than $100 million over the course of a decade."

In southeast Washington state, for example, "999 people received family planning at the local Planned Parenthood clinic in 2014," Hagar writes. "Within that group, 62 percent used a federal program was designed to ensure low-income or uninsured people can access family planning services at reduced or no cost. One in five local patients was eligible for free or reduced-cost care, and nearly half were between ages 18-25," said Tiffany Harms, spokeswoman for Greater Washington and North Idaho Planned Parenthood.

Fear of losing Planned Parenthood, which offers pregnancy testing, emergency contraception, testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted disease, birth control—including condoms—and medication-induced abortions, has led to sharp increases in appointments, Hagar writes. Nationally, there was a 900 percent increase in demand for intrauterine devices after the presidential election. In Walla Walla, "the regional Planned Parenthood network saw a 71 percent overall increase in appointments for long-acting, reversible contraception procedures since the election. Walla Walla appointments for all services shot up by nearly 50 percent," Harms said.

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