Maryland Expands Access to Reproductive Health through Medicaid

In the world of reproductive health, the overall “war” tends to be a back and forth of wins and losses to the conservative anti-sex, anti-choicers. 2011 was so full of losses that some of the wins were overlooked. One win in particular just went into effect in Maryland.

Last year Maryland lawmakers passed the “Family Planning Works Act” with bipartisan support in both the state Senate and House. As of January 1st it went into effect giving access to family planning and reproductive health care to over 30,000 women. According to the Washington Post the old laws in effect provided coverage for pregnancy expenses to low-income women as well as family planning coverage, but only to women who had already had a child. As they point out “That’s quite an odd policy, of course, because family planning is best begun before a family is started.” The new law will provide family planning coverage to low and moderate income women before they get pregnant. The coverage doesn’t only apply to contraception; it will also provide access to STI/STD testing as well as screens for: cervical/breast cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. It will give women without access to these life altering health care services a chance to be in control of their health.

One of the primary reasons the bill had bipartisan support is that the change could save the state anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per year. The fact that covering pregnancy costs and subsequent health care cost for children with low-income parents is far more expensive than covering family planning services is no secret to family planning advocates. However it doesn’t seem to be as understood by politicians who continue to attempt to cut funding from organizations that provide low-income families with health care. Maryland politicians have put aside ideology and realized that not only does providing family planning coverage make social sense, it also makes fiscal sense.

Experts have predicted the new law will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by almost 8000 a year. This is important because study after study have shown that babies that were planned for have much higher birth weights and a much lower rate of infant mortality than babies born to mothers who did not plan their pregnancy. This reason alone should be enough to get support on a national level to continue federal support of family planning groups, but the law will also reduce the number of abortions in the state by over 2000. For the anti-abortion crowd if an actually born baby having a better chance of survival isn’t enough of a reason to support family planning, then surely reduced abortions should be right?

Let’s not forget that 82% of Americans actually support expanded access to birth control. Unfortunately, for many in the anti-abortion group these reasons are not enough to support legislation that would expand federal support for family planning services. They don’t just want people to not have abortions, if people are having sex they want to have babies, regardless of whether they can take care of said baby or not.

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