As two student women’s health nurse practitioners at The University of Utah, we are outraged and exhausted to witness our male political leaders launch nearly constant attacks on safe and cost-effective women’s health care. Most recently, this was exhibited by President Trump’s swift, reckless end to the rule requiring employer-sponsored health insurance policies to cover birth control without co-pays or additional costs.
In this time of unease we have found an unexpected ally in Utah, Republican Rep. Ray Ward and his proposed legislation for the 2018 session to increase access to safe and effective birth control for low-income women in our community.
Although conversations regarding access to birth control and women’s health care are often presented from an ideological standpoint, for the women we serve, affordable access to contraception is not ideological. It is essential health care.
As many Utahns know, the decision to become a parent is significant and life changing. Reliable birth control allows a woman and her partner to decide if and when to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. However, in our encounters with women across the state, we have witnessed firsthand that this access does much more: It allows each woman to live her best life and achieve her personal goals.
Ward’s plan proposes to offer contraception coverage to women not eligible for Medicaid and earning up to 95 percent of the federal poverty level, about $11,500 in 2017 for a single woman. Increased access to contraception leads to fewer unplanned pregnancies, a burden weighing five times more heavily on low-income women.
Furthermore, access to affordable birth control plays a fundamental role in determining whether women and their children stay within, or emerge from, the cycle of poverty. If our political leaders desire to reduce the number of welfare recipients, access to birth control is an excellent place to start.
Implementation of the proposed three-year pilot program would allow Utah to join the ranks of 28 other states that offer family planning coverage to individuals who do not qualify for full Medicaid benefits. Over five years, these existing programs have proven to be budget neutral and cost saving, saving roughly $7 for every $1 invested in family planning services. Moreover, research estimates that the proposed program could prevent 2,000 unintended pregnancies and up to 680 abortions in our state in just one year. Our guess is that these are numbers that all Utahns can get behind.
As proud Utahns, we feel fortunate to live in a state that values family, health, safety, productivity, opportunity and prosperity. Adopting Ward’s proposal to fund family planning services to poor women in our community is a sure way for Utah to support and embolden these values. Write your representatives today and let them know you support this legislation! And thank you, Ray Ward, for being a ray of hope for Utah women and families.
Rebekah Birdsall, a lifetime Utah resident, is a registered nurse with experience in maternal-newborn care, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Utah College of Nursing, preparing to become a women’s health nurse practitioner.
Hannah Murphy is an experienced labor and delivery registered nurse is a doctoral student at the University of Utah, preparing to become a women’s health nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife.