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Emergency Contraception Has Tremendous Potential in the Fight to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy

Why the "Great Debate" over Condoms and Barrier Birth Control?

An Overview of Abortion in the United States

.....more media kits


Forcing Parental Involvement in Reproductive Health Decisions May Put Teens in Danger

Why Do Women Have Abortions?

Health Care Providers Cross the Line When They Obstruct Women's Access to Legal Medication

.....more news releases


Reproductive health in the state legislatures,
January – September 2005

Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer on the horizon

Bush Administration Withholds UNFPA Funding for Fourth Year

Medicaid Turns 40: What You Didn't Know About This Vital Source of Family Planning Funding

In the News Archive

Reproductive health in the state legislatures,
January – September 2005

By the beginning of October, nearly all of the state legislatures have adjourned for 2005 (only seven remain in session), and in their wake, they leave numerous new laws affecting access to and availability of reproductive health services. To date, a total of 80 laws have been enacted, compared with 28 for all of 2005.

So far this year, 43 measures that restrict access to reproductive health care have been enacted (up from 16 last year), including measures that

  • criminalize abortion in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned (South Dakota);
  • require women to receive counseling at least 24 hours before having an abortion (Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota);
  • provide women seeking an abortion with scientifically unsupported information on fetal pain (Arkansas, Georgia and Minnesota);
  • require minors seeking an abortion to obtain parental consent (Arkansas, Idaho and Texas) or give parental notice (Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Dakota);
  • penalize those assisting a minor in crossing state lines for an abortion (Missouri);
  • fund organizations that provide “alternatives to abortion” counseling and services for pregnant women (Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas); and
  • exclude agencies that provide abortion-related services from participating in state family planning programs (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas).

On the other hand, 20 measures designed to increase access to reproductive health care have been approved this year (compared with 3 last year), including measures that

  • permit pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives without a prescription (Massachusetts and New Hampshire);
  • provide sexual assault victims with services related to emergency contraception (Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas);
  • expand Medicaid eligibility for family planning (Connecticut, Indiana and Texas);
  • protect access to contraceptives by limiting pharmacist refusals (California);
  • require coverage of contraception within insurance plans (Arkansas and West Virginia); and
  • protect access to abortion clinics (Montana).

In addition, other measures were enacted that would

  • consider a fetus a person under homicide statutes (Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Oklahoma and West Virginia);
  • provide enhanced penalties for killing a pregnant woman (Maine); and
  • allow stem cell research (Connecticut, Indiana and Massachusetts).

Parental involvement in minors’ abortions has also been a hot issue this year in the states. To date, eight states—Arkansas, Idaho, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas—have passed or amended parental involvement laws this year. Missouri’s new law, which is blocked pending the resolution of a court case, would prohibit anyone from helping a minor obtain an out-of-state abortion. In addition, after seven years in legal limbo, Ohio’s parental consent law, although still being challenged, was allowed to go into effect and replace the existing parental notification law.

The question of parental involvement is likely to remain in the news. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of New Hampshire’s enjoined parental notification law during this year’s term. And the question of whether a parent must be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor is up for vote in California’s upcoming special election (see Teenagers’ Access to Confidential Reproductive Health Services).

Click on the links below for more information.

Monthly updates on sexual and reproductive health and rights developments in the states

The current status of state policies

Receive e-mail updates on state-oriented research and analysis by subscribing to State News Quarterly.

Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer on the horizon

On October 6, Merck & Company announced that an experimental vaccine against two of the strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) most likely to lead to cervical cancer has proven to be 100% effective in clinical trials. Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, causing an estimated 225,000 deaths each year. Thanks to major advances in early detection (notably the Pap test), the disease is relatively uncommon in the United States; the vast majority of these deaths occur to women in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

The new vaccine would provide additional protection to women in the United States while promising huge benefits to women in countries where Pap screening remains rare. Nevertheless, it already faces opposition among some social conservatives who allege that it will encourage young women to have sex. Because the vaccine must be administered to women before they are exposed to a cancer-causing virus, it will ideally be provided to young girls who have not yet become sexually active. Thus, some fear it will have a “disinhibiting effect” on young women, giving them a green light to have sex.

This is similar to the argument mounted by some social conservatives that the availability of condoms leads to more and riskier sexual behavior. However, research analyzing the sexual behavior of adolescents in the United States has shown that sex education and the availability of condoms and contraceptives do not lead to earlier initiation of sexual activity, more sex or more sexual partners. The new vaccine, like condoms, promises to vastly reduce the risks associated with sex, and to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Click for more information on:

Political debates around cervical cancer prevention.

Arguments that risk reduction strategies can lead to “disinhibition”.

The ongoing “great debate” over condoms and other contraceptives.

Bush Administration Withholds UNFPA Funding for Fourth Year

On Sept 16, the Bush administration made a formal “determination” that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is ineligible, under a longstanding federal anticoercion law, for the $34 million that Congress had set aside for it. “UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s birth-planning activities facilitates the Chinese government’s coercive abortion program,” wrote Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns in a letter to congressional leaders.

The action was predictable. President Bush first blocked a U.S. contribution to UNFPA in 2002, and has every year since, on the grounds that the agency violates the anticoercion law by virtue of its mere presence in China, despite the fact that the administration’s own investigative team found no evidence to support this claim. UNFPA operates in over 150 poor countries around the world, but does not provide or pay for abortion services anywhere in the world. Instead, UNFPA works to reduce the need for abortion by promoting voluntary family planning.

Click on the links below for more information.

U.S. funding for UNFPA

The benefits of investing in sexual and reproductive health

The Bush Administration’s policies on sexual and reproductive health worldwide

The broad benefits of international family planning programs for women and children

Medicaid Turns 40: What You Didn't Know About This Vital Source of Family Planning Funding

Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that finances health services for over 52 million low-income individuals in the United States each year, turns 40 this month. Enacted in 1965, Medicaid has become increasingly important over the years and is now the single largest source of public dollars supporting family planning services and supplies nationwide.

In 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, 7.1 million women of reproductive age (15–44)—12% of all women in that age group—relied on Medicaid for care. For poor women, the proportion is even higher—37% of women of reproductive age in families with incomes below the federal poverty line were enrolled in Medicaid.

Why is Medicaid coverage for family planning services so important?

  • Half of the 34.5 million U.S. women in need of contraceptive services and supplies must rely on publicly supported contraceptive services.
  • Medicaid contributes 61% of all public funds spent on family planning services in the United States; other state funds contribute only 15% and other federal sources provide only 24% of the total.
  • Medicaid funding for contraceptive services has grown dramatically from $100 million in the early 1980s, to nearly $350 million in 1994 and to $770 million in 2001.
  • Some states have extended eligibility for family planning services to large numbers of low-income individuals who might otherwise have had no source of coverage for these services. A recent federally funded study found that these programs expand access to care, increase the diversity of family planning providers and reduce unintended pregnancy, while saving both the federal and state governments large sums of money.

Click on the links below to learn more about publicly funded family planning services and the Medicaid program.

Public Funding for Contraceptive, Sterilization and Abortion Services, FY 1980–2001

Doing More For Less: Study Says State Medicaid Family Planning Expansions are Cost-Effective

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