Sunday was World Contraception Day, an annual celebration aimed at raising awareness of birth control and empowering individuals to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
In a standard year, this is a time to reflect on the transformative impact of birth control. But this year – after the Missouri legislature risked destabilizing the entire state budget to eliminate IUDs and emergency contraception from the state’s Medicaid program – it’s a whole different story: a story uplifting.
Recent headlines have been dominated by the Texas judicial ban on abortion. Almost immediately, lawmakers across the country vowed to do the same, including here in Missouri.
“We are going to make it not only difficult, but unthinkable,” they said as they finished their fundraising letters and moved on to higher political positions. But the reality is that access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is already severely limited – even unthinkable – for many rural, youth and Missourians of color who face disproportionate barriers to healthcare. As the expansion of Medicaid paves the way for coverage of an additional 275,000 people in need of care, significant health inequalities persist, deeply affecting the state’s most marginalized.
Fortunately, there are two high-quality contraceptive equity programs in Missouri run by the Missouri Family Health Council. Between the federal Title X family planning program and The good moment, an initiative of the Missouri Foundation for Health, more than 85 clinic sites statewide offer low-cost or free contraception and other sexual health services, also through telehealth. These programs not only provide high quality health care, they empower people to take charge of their health and pursue the future they want, including if, when and under what circumstances.
However, the family planning safety net remains under imminent threat. Just this week, the Interim Senate Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection approved recommendations to overload provider requirements, aimed exclusively at eliminating family planning from the state’s Medicaid program.
It is a dangerous game when the need for publicly funded family planning services already exceeds the capacity of the current system. These patients cannot simply be absorbed by other providers – not during an ongoing global health crisis, and never. Instead, the pressure on providers will intensify and patients will experience longer wait times, be forced to see a provider they did not choose, or forgo care altogether. For public health, this means increased transmission of sexually transmitted infections and more unwanted pregnancies.
The safety net needs same-day providers, a full range of contraception, and culturally competent and trauma-informed care. This is especially important for immigrants, the LGBTQ community, survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, and those who suffer from abuse or coercion in intimate partnerships – all of whom already face barriers navigating the world. health system and find care they know and trust.
Access to birth control is not a luxury, it is an imperative. In addition to enabling people to take control of their health and lead self-determined lives, contraception enables people to plan and space their births, which improves outcomes for women, families, and society in its own right. together. The average American woman uses contraception for thirty years in order to have only two children. Three decades prevent pregnancy.
Contraception also has ancillary benefits, including treatment for painful periods, endometriosis, and acne. As Republican State Senator Jeannie Riddle said during the state’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance debacle, “Women in the state of Missouri want, need and deserve contraceptives.”
There are policy solutions to increasing access to contraception in Missouri, including providing an annual contraceptive, allowing pharmacists to distribute contraceptives, making birth control available over the counter, and making emergency contraception. immediately available to survivors of sexual assault. If only the Missouri legislature’s passion for freedom extended beyond COVID-19.
What we have learned from the FRA fiasco is that using birth control as a bargaining chip is not a winning strategy. He also asserted that reasonable minds do not differ when it comes to a health service that 99% of people of childbearing age use at some point in their reproductive lives. Birth control is not negotiable. On this World Contraception Day, we are wielding its power.