With the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to over-rule evidence-based recommendations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow sale of Plan B One-Step over the counter, we once again witnessed the failure to prioritize women’s reproductive health, the continued politicization of access, and evidence of a disconnect of awareness by our policymakers of how increased access to this product would affect millions of women of all ages regardless or race or immigration status.
Latinas represent the population with the highest rate of women without health insurance; seeing a provider and accessing birth control is not an option for many women. Latinas also face a disproportionate number of barriers to EC. Under current rules, women face many barriers, including the requirement of a government-issued ID, residency in rural areas, high costs of the product, and lack of insurance. These rules disproportionately affect Latinas, their families, and immigrant communities in accessing birth control options.
We know that unintended pregnancy has serious economic and social costs, as well as costs to the woman, her family and the community.[i] In Colorado, 39 percent of pregnancies are unintended.[ii] These numbers are higher for women of color: for Latinas (47 percent), and African Americans (53 percent).[iii] And many of these unintended pregnancies affect our youth. We have found that one of the most effective ways to improve the success rate of female students in completing their education is to ensure they have access to comprehensive sexuality education, and to affordable medical care, including contraception, so they can make informed decisions about their sexual health.
Despite Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s work on numerous initiatives that positively affect Latinas’ reproductive health, she failed to work to understand the impact this decision would have on Latinas. This failure makes us question her awareness of the changing demographics of this country, and her commitment to family planning and women’s reproductive health. We encourage our amazing strong partners and other individuals embedded in this fight for reproductive justice to continue raising our voices, and ask the President to overturn this decision.
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[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000, November). Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. With Understanding and Improving Health and Objectives for Improving Health. 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
[ii] Archer, L. et al. (2011). How Healthy Are Colorado Women of Reproductive Age? An Evaluation of Preconception Risk and Protective Factors. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Retrieved 17 August 2011, from http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/pubs/Preconception3.pdf
[iii] Palacio, M. et al. (2009). Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in Colorado 2009. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities. Retrieved 20 August 2011, from http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/ohd/ethnicdisparitiesreport/HD%202009%20LowRes.pdf