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Access to Abortion Care
Planned Parenthood believes in ensuring that people have access to the family planning and reproductive health care services they need. We believe that every individual — regardless of income, age, race, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status — has the fundamental right to decide when and whether to be a parent and to access nonjudgmental confidential health care. It is the government’s role to support personal childbearing decisions by ensuring adequate access to preventive health care services, including birth control and sexual health information, as well as access to quality prenatal care and safe, legal abortion.
Abortion opponents have long tried to erode access to abortion through bans on abortion procedures and other restrictions, including waiting periods, mandated parental involvement laws, funding prohibitions, and legislation that attempts to create separate legal rights for fetuses distinct from those of a pregnant individual.
PPANY believes that individuals must make their own personal, private health care decisions, including the decision of whether or not to obtain confidential, safe, legal abortion care under the standards set forth in Roe v. Wade, and that in all cases individuals, their families, and their health care providers should be able to make decisions that protect the individual’s health.
Access to Contraceptives
The spate of nationwide challenges to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have highlighted a troubling trend of employers attempting to use their personal beliefs as a basis for denying access to reproductive health care for their employees. Allowing employers to assert personal objections to health care services creates a slippery slope that can inhibit individuals’ abilities to access the care they and their families need. Legislation has been proposed in New York to strengthen protections for employees to make their own reproductive health decisions. This proposed legislation would prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee due to a reproductive health decision made by that employee or the employee’s dependent.
The contraceptive coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was intended to make it possible for an individual to access contraception without co-pays. Unfortunately, many insurers are only covering one or two methods of contraception. The Department of Health and Human Services issued guidelines stating that insurers should cover at least one method of contraception from each of 18 distinct categories, as designated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with no co-pay. Legislation has been proposed in New York that would require insurers to follow these guidelines, and cover emergency contraception purchased over the counter through a non-patient-specific prescription. Additionally, the proposed legislation would provide coverage for the dispensing of up to twelve months of contraceptives at one time. These simple fixes would greatly increase access to contraception in New York, and make it much easier for individuals to protect themselves against unintended pregnancy.
Some pharmacists insist that they should be able to deny an individual access to basic reproductive health care because they have religious objections to the care being sought. Nationwide, there have been cases of pharmacists refusing to fill valid, legal prescriptions for certain contraceptives, including emergency contraception (EC). Laws permitting pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraception and/or EC are dangerous to an individual’s health because they interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and ignore a person’s medical needs and decisions.
PPANY supports legislation that protects employees’ abilities to access reproductive health care services despite employers’ personal objections, increase contraception access for individuals, and requiring pharmacies to ensure that valid, legal prescriptions, including emergency contraception, are filled in a timely manner even when an individual pharmacist may object.
Funding for Family Planning
National attacks on Planned Parenthood’s funding could jeopardize the ability of Planned Parenthood patients to access family planning services. Each year more than 340,000 low-income individuals in New York State receive family planning services from health centers that receive public funding from State programs. These services fill an otherwise unmet need for individuals who often have inadequate or no health insurance. Services offered at these health centers include life-saving cancer screenings; birth control; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections including HIV testing and counseling; breast health services; Pap tests; sexual health education; smoking cessation; diet, exercise, and weight loss advice; information and counseling; and referrals to other specialized health care services.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than six in 10 women obtaining care at a women’s health center consider the center to be their primary source of health care. Moreover, for four in 10 women, that center is their only source of health care. An investment in family planning provides vital health care services to New York families and cost savings to the State.
In addition, a small but vocal group of opponents would like to see public funding for family planning dismantled or restricted so that public health organizations, including Planned Parenthood, would be unable to provide individuals with uncensored information about abortion or abortion services.
PPANY supports public family planning funding that includes unrestricted and uncensored information about abortion or abortion services to be provided.
Responsible Sex Education
Research shows that comprehensive sexuality education is effective at helping young people make healthier decisions. After a decade of spending over $1 billion of federal funding on failed abstinence-only education programs, the federal government’s recent financial commitment to programs that reduce teen pregnancy is a great first step in addressing the educational needs of our youth. However, there is much more work to be done to ensure that all young people have access to the information and skills they need to grow into healthy adults. Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to increase in the United States, with the CDC estimating that half of all new infections occur among youth and approximately one in four women aged 15-19 contracting an STI. A study found that significant gaps continue to exist when it comes to teaching healthy relationships, consent, and support for LGBTQ students. In fact, 63 percent of districts do not teach anti-bullying, and almost half of school districts fail to teach about sexual harassment.
PPANY supports the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, medically accurate K-12 sexuality education, including information on abstinence, contraception, consent, healthy relationships, and gender identity in public schools and state funding for comprehensive sexuality education programs that are evidence-informed.
Access to Reproductive Health Centers
Current federal and state laws seek to protect patient and provider access to reproductive health care facilities. However, many of the activities that protesters engage in invade patients’ privacy, harass and intimidate patients and staff, and even cause physical harm. There are legislative ways to strengthen these laws. For example, in April of 2009, the New York City Council enacted legislation to protect individuals’ access to reproductive health care centers by prohibiting activities that prevent access to reproductive health care centers while preserving the First Amendment right to peacefully protest.
PPANY supports individuals’ safe access to reproductive health clinics.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers
Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) use deceptive advertising practices to attract individuals who are facing unintended pregnancies. CPCs hold themselves out as reproductive health care providers, yet the vast majority are volunteer-run and do not employ any licensed medical professionals. Their goal is to discourage abortion and the use of FDA-approved birth control methods. CPCs often locate near legitimate reproductive health care providers, particularly Planned Parenthood health centers. CPCs do not counsel individuals about the full range of their pregnancy options. Instead, they provide biased counseling and misleading information, and refuse to refer individuals for abortion services or contraception.
PPANY supports requiring CPCs to be honest with individuals about what services they do and do not provide, and about whether or not they employ a trained medical professional.
Confidential Access to Safe, Legal Abortion for Teens
Most teens involve their parents in important decisions such as whether to continue or to terminate an unintended pregnancy. Some teens simply cannot involve their parents in decisions about pregnancy for good reasons such as fear of violence or of being kicked out of the home. Teens who cannot involve their parents in their abortion decision must have confidential access to safe, legal abortion services.
PPANY supports New York teens’ ability to confidentially access sexual and reproductive health services, including safe, legal abortion.
Restrictions on Abortion Access
Legislation and budget amendments have been the vehicles for imposing special restrictions, regulations, and obstacles to abortion access on both women and providers. In the case of women, these restrictions include mandated waiting periods, coercive and humiliating forced speech (so-called “informed consent”), limits on public funding of abortion services, and limits on access to abortion as guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. Restrictions aimed at abortion providers (sometimes referred to as “Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers” or TRAP laws) include regulations that single out providers, facilities, and drugs related to abortion services as a tactic to create barriers to abortion access.
PPANY opposes targeted restrictions on abortion access.