Women should have control of their own health and futures, including prevention of unplanned pregnancies.
In our state, we’ve had tremendous success in expanding health care for all Washingtonians. We have a strong tradition of standing up for a woman’s right to access safe and legal reproductive care, yet we face constant threats from the current federal administration, including the most recent move to cut Title X Family Planning funding and eliminate support for medically accurate sex education.
But Washington is taking the opposite path. We are proudly strengthening our efforts to expand women’s health care by launching a public-private partnership to make the full range of birth-control methods more widely available to the women of Washington. Women should have control of their own health and futures, including prevention of unplanned pregnancies.
To reach this goal, the Washington State Department of Health and the state Health Care Authority will join forces with the nonprofit Upstream USA in support of their mission to expand opportunity across the country by reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancies.
Upstream will provide sustainable training and technical assistance to our existing health centers to make sure all the women they serve are offered the full range of birth-control methods, including the most effective options. While the state is not providing financial resources, the Department of Health and Health Care Authority will provide support through planning, coordination and participation in an advisory committee.
Upstream’s partnership with the state of Delaware has resulted in a significant estimated decrease in unplanned pregnancies among Title X patients. To date, Upstream has trained health centers that serve 80 percent of women in the state, ensuring all women have access to the birth-control method of their choice. We want to follow Delaware’s lead and encourage other states to do the same since such action needs to occur at the state level.
While our state’s rate of unplanned pregnancies (35 percent) is significantly below the national average (45 percent), it is still too high. Unplanned pregnancies are a leading reason young women drop out of high school and community college. Low-income women are five times more likely than higher-income women to have an unplanned pregnancy, contributing to a cycle of poverty.
I believe all women should be able to determine their future by having control of their reproductive health and access to the full range of contraceptive options, including long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).
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Currently, many Washington health centers may not keep LARCs in stock or are not fully trained to provide them, requiring women who want one to need more than one appointment or travel long distances. This can be a huge burden for women and their partners. We can do better!
Upstream plans to train the staffs of 300 health-care centers across Washington state’s hospital system and community health center network — our safety net — reaching more than 500,000 women of reproductive age.
Washingtonians also benefit from the recent passage in our state of the Reproductive Parity Act, which ensures that insurance companies will be required to cover all forms of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration, without cost-sharing or delay of coverage.
We should all be very proud of what we have accomplished together in Washington in removing barriers and supporting our residents’ rights to have the freedom to make personal health care and family-planning choices that directly affect their futures.
Please join me in support of the launch of this extraordinary partnership and encourage your health-care provider to participate.