To Preserve America’s Contraception Rights, Lawmakers Must Step Up Now

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Even before the Supreme Court decision overturn Roe vs. Wade Y Planned Parenthood vs. Caseymillions of people have already experienced barriers and lack of access to abortion care, but in the weeks since the ruling, lawmakers in more and more states are rushing to enact policies and laws designed to dramatically exacerbate the problem. The crisis caused by the overturning of Roe it has only deepened the flaws that exist within the nation’s health care safety net, divisions that will only grow unless our elected officials use every tool available to them to meet the moment.

Although it cannot solve the abortion emergency, a critical aspect of our response must be expanding access to quality, affordable contraception. In a world where access to abortion is severely limited, it is even more important for people who want contraceptives to be able to access them affordably and easily through family planning providers they feel safe and trust.

As we join our advocacy partners in their efforts to fight for abortion rights, we must also push Congress and the White House to take several proactive steps to make contraceptive care available to all who want it. .

First, Congress must fully fund the Title X family planning program. Title X funds a diverse national network of health centers that provide high-quality family planning and sexual health care for all, prioritizing those with low incomes or those without other care options. Yet this critical component of the public health infrastructure has struggled with numerous obstacles for years, from budget cuts to the Trump-era show restrictions a COVID-19. As family planning providers have absorbed these blows, they have been unable to maintain or expand their services to ensure that patients have access to the preventive health care they need and want.

In March of this year, Congress funded the Title X program in $286.5 million for the eighth year in a row, diminishing the Biden administration’s ability to fully rebuild the program following Trump-era restrictions and vendor withdrawal. As a result of systemic inequities that exist throughout the health care system, the people most affected by abortion bans are the very people who disproportionately rely on safety-net family planning providers for care, intensifying the need to expand services for these patients. However, there simply isn’t enough money for the program to meaningfully support every service area across the country, let alone expand to address any increase in need in light of the Supreme Court ruling, and as a result, many Agencies are forced to freeze positions, limit services, and remove agencies from the Title X network.

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Recognizing that expanded access to contraception will never be a substitute for abortion care, it is imperative to increase the availability of contraception to those who want it in this time of crisis. Congress must secure urgent funding for the Title X program by the end of 2022 so that resources to support contraceptive care, cancer screenings, and other critical health services can more fully reach communities and individuals in need. .

In July, the Senate considered an invoice to fund Title X at $500 million annually for the next 10 years, which would have represented a historic investment in a program that has had a profound impact on people’s lives for more than 50 years. Unfortunately the measure was blocked by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

As we near the end of this fiscal year, and with providers struggling to keep pace with the demand for care, the next opportunity for Congress to secure a significant increase in funding for Title X will occur this fall with a package of omnibus funds. In the years ahead, Congress should support strong annual appropriations that family planning providers can depend on year after year, instead of passing minimal funding measures that make it harder for people to get the care they need.

Biden Administration Must Also Enforce Medicaid Provider Choice Protection. It is imperative that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) respond to the actions of a growing number of states to prohibit abortion providers from participating in their Medicaid programs. Such actions are illegal. Under Medicaid law, beneficiaries have the right to receive family planning and sexual health care from any qualified and willing provider of their choice. This protection is a lifesaver for the 1 in 5 women covered by Medicaid, most of whom are of reproductive age.

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some statesStates such as Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas flagrantly violate this requirement by terminating contracts with certain family planning providers, while other states have stepped up efforts to undermine this protection. The Missouri Family Health Council, a longtime Title X recipient, found that as of June 2021, family planning providers expected to see patients who had previously been seen at Planned Parenthood are too limited. The average wait time at these locations is more than five weeks for a personal wellness exam for a new patient. Some providers have not been able to accept new patients in the last year. Delays like these put people at risk for unwanted pregnancies, undetected sexually transmitted infections, and more.

It is time for the Biden administration to step in and enforce the law. Doing so would not only guarantee people access to care in states that have violated this federal protection, but also send a strong message to other states that targeting providers and the patients they serve will not be tolerated. Long-standing, highly-skilled family planning providers play an essential role in helping their patients manage their own sexual and reproductive health and should be given the necessary protections under federal law, which is especially critical now.

Finally, we must codify the rights to privacy and contraception. The Supreme Court’s decision to erase 50 years of abortion rights in this country is just the beginning. We expect states to move quickly to further infringe on the right to privacy, including by threatening access to contraception and LGBTQ+ rights. This is sobering but not surprising. we have already seen states trying to label certain birth control methods abortifacients, and lawmakers will seek to use the court’s reasoning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to advance those state policies and future attempts to take away people’s constitutional right to contraception.

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Despite the protests of the majority of the court in Dobbs, it is clear that the right to privacy and contraception recognized 57 years ago in Griswold vs. Connecticut runs a significant risk. Congress can safeguard this constitutional protection by enacting the Law on the Right to Contraception. The House recently passed this bill that would enshrine the rights of individuals to access a wide range of contraceptive methods and ensure that family planning providers have the right to support their patients with the contraceptive care and education they need without interference. politics. Unfortunately, the Senate was later unable to clear the way for enactment.

At a time when people’s concerns and fears are growing about the care available to them, and with people’s health and lives at stake, we need policies that expand access to contraception, not decrease it. The Biden administration and Congress must take bold and swift action to remove all obstacles to making birth control available to everyone who needs it. The future of our nation depends on it.

Santaisha Hicks, MPA, is president of the board of the National Association for Family Planning and Reproductive Health.