Reproductive Health

Birth-Control Roadblock Just Might Clear in 2014

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Funding attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics are crimping birth-control services for low-income, uninsured women, data from New Jersey's Planned Parenthood shows. Health reform in 2014 could turn the whole situation around.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Anti-choice politicians in a slew of states--including North Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska and Kansas--are putting forth an energetic effort to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics. As a result, many women are losing access to birth control.

By 2014, however, the federal rules for health insurance providers may dramatically increase the availability and affordability of birth control, especially for those who earn too much for Medicaid and do not have private insurance.

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But in the meantime, New Jersey is already showing the extent to which state legislation can hinder low-income and uninsured women's access to birth control services.

One year ago, under anti-choice Gov. Chris Christy, the state eliminated $7.5 million in family planning from its budget, according to an April 2011 study by New Jersey Planned Parenthood.

During budget hearings, representatives of New Jersey Planned Parenthood said in testimonies, posted on the group's site, that they were seeing more patients in their 40s and 50s--not their usual demographic--with no other source of health care and no insurance, due to layoffs and factors such as the economic downturn.

Since then, New Jersey Planned Parenthood's site reports six of their clinics have closed. The group predicts 35,000 fewer patients will be served in 2011, a significant drop from the 131,000 patients served in 2010. Others will have to pay more out-of-pocket fees for services, including birth control.

The remaining 52 New Jersey clinics have cut back on hours and fired staff, creating bottlenecks. The wait time for a new patient routine exam in the Shrewsbury clinic, for example, has risen to two weeks from three days.

Planned Parenthood is one of the only family planning organizations in New Jersey to offer walk-in hours, especially for pregnancy tests, and it has cut back on those as well, Michele Jaker, executive director of New Jersey Planned Parenthood affiliates, said in a phone interview.

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