Birth Control Access, GiveBIG, Reproductive Justice

GiveBIG to Support Young Pro-Choice Advocates Like Me

This post is by Tjistke Dekker, an intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and president of the University of Washington Students for NARAL.

I personally have had nothing but positive experiences while accessing reproductive care for myself. The first time I sought birth control was when I was 17. I was in the first relationship of my life, and I had settled on Nuvaring. I was very fortunate to be aware of all my birth control options, and in many other ways as well. My insurance covered my birth control and my mom was supportive and drove me to the doctor herself.
I got involved with NARAL because as I became more aware of American politics, the endless attacks on women’s access to reproductive care made me angry. I am very aware of the ways in which I was fortunate, and the many barriers that exist for different women trying to access basic care. I personally would not feel safe if I did not have access to birth control and abortion, and I am particularly motivated by the disproportionate impact lack of access has on poor women, women of color, and other under-served groups. I chose NARAL because it addresses pro-choice issues in an inclusive way. NARAL isn’t just fighting for rich white women, but also acknowledges how poverty and workplace policies limit women’s reproductive freedom.

I am currently an intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and  the president of the Students of NARAL club on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. In my time at NARAL, I have had the opportunity to learn community organizing skills and I’ve learned a great deal about the state of reproductive care across the country. I’ve learned about TRAP laws, emergency contraception laws in Washington, and different methods of birth control. One of the most important things I’ve learned from NARAL is the idea that an essential part of having a right is having the resources to be able to access that right. Women have a right to a safe abortion, but legal limits and poverty can stand in their way. I love how NARAL frames reproductive choice in a way that empowers women.

One of my favorite things to do for NARAL is tabling, which involves having a table set up on campus and collecting signatures for a petition or initiative. Meeting new people who support NARAL’s cause is always exciting. Although I table on campus, I end up talking to people of all ages. It’s a pleasure to connect and realize how many diverse Americans support the pro-choice cause. Tabling is also very satisfying because at the end of the day, you can count how many signatures you’ve gathered, which always gives me a sense of accomplishment. I enjoy doing work that connects to an important cause.
I think I’ve definitely grown from my experience with NARAL. I’ve gained a better understanding of how seemingly different political issues all work together to influence a woman’s ability to enjoy reproductive choice. I’ve also met many fun and enthusiastic people who share my pro-choice values.

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington inspires young people like Tjistke to get involved and help us spread the pro-choice message! If you’d like us continue to do the work we do, including our youth programs, please GiveBIG  to the NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Foundation today.

Abortion Care, Affordable Care Act, Birth Control Access

Seattle Times, Citing NARAL Report, Says WA Doesn’t Value Women’s Health Care Enough

Seattle Times editorial board member Thanh Tan weighs in on the issue of access to reproductive health care today, arguing that even though Washington is a “good” state on the sliding scale by which we judge birth-control and abortion access in an increasingly anti-choice nation, we need to do much more to ensure that everyone, including low-income people and those living in rural areas, has access to reproductive health care, including abortions.

Pointing to public health budget cuts, the arson at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, and a report this year by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates that found insurance companies were giving out misleading or false information about birth control coverage, Tan writes that “maintaining the existing women’s health infrastructure is challenging.”

“’When access to care is still highly dependent on financial status, racial status, immigrant status or whether you’re Native American or whether you’re in the military — that’s not really equality, and that’s not really good access,” [UW Family Planning Division director Dr. Sarah] Prager says.

“Another contentious issue right now concerns a broad state rule that allows institutions and doctors to refuse to provide abortion care.

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has documented situations where women suffering miscarriages or nonviable pregnancies were denied abortions or the care was delayed.

“I get why Catholic-run hospitals are opposed to terminating pregnancies. However, when publicly owned hospitals run by Catholic organizations or a community’s only hospital refuse to provide or refer for a legal procedure, that crosses a line.”

When the right to choose is limited by hospital protocols, health-care hurdles, location, or income, it isn’t really a choice, which is why, as Tan writes, “If we don’t stand up for the rights we have now, they might not be there for us when we need them later.”

Birth Control Access

Right Wing Attacks Seattle Clinics That Give Teens Better Birth Control but not Coca-Cola

This guest post is by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington supporter Valerie Tarico. 

Pregnant and obese, with rotten teeth? Seattle is leading the way on teen pregnancy prevention, but if conservative commentators had their druthers, sexually active Seattle teens would get Coca-Cola instead of contraceptives. 

In King County, an innovative public-private partnership brings adolescent health services to youth where they are—in schools. Healthcare systems like Swedish, Group Health, and Neighborcare operate small clinics right on campus in Seattle high schools. These clinics provide outpatient adolescent medicine services, including vaccinations and mental and sexual health services.

Since one of the primary reasons girls drop out of high school is pregnancy, onsite clinics in Seattle high schools have long included family planning services, and Washington voters have long defended teen access to this vital health care, whether young people have supportive parental adults they can turn to for help or not.

Since 2010, a model program developed by Neighborcare Health and adopted by other primary care providers has applied “medical best practices” shown in Missouri and Colorado to dramatically decrease teen pregnancy. This includes onsite provision of top-tier “fit and forget” contraceptives–IUDs and implants that are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC as the most effective form of contraception for sexually active teens.

Even responsible teens find it hard to use every-day or every-time birth control perfectly. So do adults.  Thanks in part to inconsistent Pill use, almost 1 out of every 10 women on the Pill gets pregnant each year, as compared with 1 in 500 for the least effective IUD! That’s why, when Colorado made IUD’s and implants widely available and free, the teen pregnancy rate dropped by 40 percent.

But conservatives in Colorado have killed funding for that program, and if they could, they would kill Seattle’s teen pregnancy prevention services as well. Conservative outlets including Fox and Breitbart launched a media assault when they learned that Seattle youth can receive top tier contraceptives with or without parental involvement. In unison, they depicted mythical 11-year-old 6th graders sneaking behind the backs of their otherwise doting parents to get “dangerous” IUDs, “gynecological procedures” and “invasive contraceptives” from unqualified government bureaucrats. They complained that young people could get reproductive healthcare on campus but not Coca-cola or other sugary soft drinks. And social media lit up with a chorus of horrified screeching.

In reality, the highly trained professionals in Seattle’s school-based clinics include parents in conversations and care where possible. Clinicians routinely ask students if they have told their parents about a visit, when they think they might tell their parents, and how the clinic can support them in that process, even facilitating family discussions.

But in the right-wing assault on Seattle care providers and teens, reality matters little. Conservative commentators don’t appear to care that their mascot, the 11-year-old IUD seeker, is fictitious. Nor do they care that real teens who do exist have received the best family planning care available, stacking the odds in favor of their education, their dreams, and their future families.

America’s epidemic of teen moms mired in poverty is no accident. In state after state, conservative politicians in the thrall of the Religious Right have obstructed or destroyed programs that drive down the number of unplanned pregnancies. I, for one, am proud to live in Washington, where we take care of our teens, and am grateful for brave nonprofits like Neighborcare that forge ahead to provide the state-of-the-art care even at the risk of a reactionary feeding frenzy like the one that erupted on Fox this week. Launching healthy young adults takes a village, and here in Washington, taxpayers and parents and neighbors and educators and clinicians together form the village that helps young people to care for themselves and graduate and pursue their dreams.

Every session, conservatives in Olympia try to take away the ability of teens to seek reproductive care independently, and NARAL has to organize a defense. Our work is never done. Thank you for making it possible, and please help us keep our work going by contributing what you can to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington today. 

Affordable Care Act, Birth Control Access

Seattle Times: ACA Improved Health Care, but Gaps–Including Birth Control–Remain

Five years into the Affordable Care Act, Washington state is seeing its effect in different ways. (OIC), Washington Health Benefit Exchange, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times)
Image via Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times weighed in today on the promises and perils of the Affordable Care Act, including the provision guaranteeing free birth control to all women, quoting NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Executive Director Rachel Berkson about our recent report revealing that insurers provided misinformation to women who called seeking birth control.

The story, by longtime Seattle writer and reporter Lisa Stiffler, makes a strong case that Obamacare has dramatically improved overall coverage rates and quality in Washington state, especially for the long-term uninsured, but that affordability issues and gaps in coverage remain.

As Stiffler notes, that promise means little if insurance companies make birth control hard to access. A NARAL Pro-Choice Washington/Northwest Health Law Advocates study concluded that insurance companies participating in the state health-care exchange consistently provided inaccurate information about what forms of birth control were covered (correct answer: All of them).

Stiffler reports:

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates teamed up to make sure women were getting accurate information about free contraceptives. Using “secret shoppers,” they found that wasn’t always the case, that insurance-company representatives routinely provided misinformation on contraceptive benefits.

The groups also made an online call for stories from women who were denied free contraceptives. “We got a huge response,” said Rachel Berkson, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.

The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner has logged numerous complaints over companies failing to deliver on this and other free benefits, including colonoscopy tests to check for colorectal cancers.

The problem is so significant that the Obama administration recently issued additional information that strengthens and helps clarify the coverage of both benefits. In Washington, the insurance companies have agreed to improve communications on birth control.

Affordable Care Act, Birth Control Access

Seattle Times: Insurance Companies Need to Get Their Act Together

Hopefully, not usThis morning, the Seattle Times ran a second editorial, headlined “Patients must expect more from providers on birth control,” highlighting the failure of many insurance companies’ to provide accurate information about what birth control options they cover (a shortfall that can lead women to use options that aren’t best for them or forego birth control altogether), as well as their documented failure to provide all FDA-approved forms of birth control free of charge, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Two reports, by the National Women’s Law Center and Kaiser, respectively, showed that across the board, insurance companies were denying women free access to approved forms of birth control, telling some, for example, that because the long-acting NuvaRing and birth controls both contain hormones, women prescribed the NuvaRing should be content to take birth control pills instead.

Citing an April report by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates, which revealed that insurance companies were giving women inaccurate information about what birth control they covered, the Times writes, “Now that the rules are clear, insurance providers must comply.

“Women’s health advocates are watching closely. So is Sen. [Patty] Murray,” who has been a champion on this issue, the Times continues.

Listing a number of checklist items people should know before they call their insurance providers, the Times suggests that anyone who believes they have been given false information about or denied the no-cost contraceptive coverage that’s guaranteed by the law should file a complaint with Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who plans to meet with eight insurance companies, along with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and NOHLA, to follow up on their progress in October.

And if you have your own story of being denied coverage or given false information by an insurance company rep, drop us a line and share your experience.