Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Montgomery County Failing to Meet Women’s Reproductive Health Care Needs

A study released on January 31st by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services highlights the need for more reproductive health services for women in Montgomery County.  The study was a collaborative effort of the “Reproductive Health, Education and Advocacy Work Group” which was convened by Councilmember Dutchy Trachtenberg in June 2009. The group is comprised of medical experts and reproductive health advocates, including NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

The report identifies two areas of concern.  It states the need for more reproductive health services while also highlighting the disproportionate rate at which women of color receive information about reproductive health care. Alarmingly, only one-third of women eligible for services are receiving the care they need. The report found that there are only six publicly supported family planning clinics in the county.  However, it’s estimated that 30,000 women in Montgomery County are in need of family planning services. In order to adequately meet this demand, Trachtenberg says there ought to be at least 20 clinics in the county. However, any additional clinics will not be proposed until the county’s economic situation has improved. 
Furthermore, the report states that although women of color make up a smaller portion of the County’s population, they have a greater need for publicly funded family planning services. Unfortunately, they are also more likely to be unaware of the services that are available to them.

The limitation of services available coupled with a lack of knowledge of existing services has serious consequences for young women of color. For example, Hispanic and African American teens become pregnant at a higher rate in comparison to White teens.  According to a press release on the report, “Hispanic teens were more than twice as likely to give birth as their White or African American counterparts.”  Out of all pregnancies in Montgomery County in 2007, 3 percent of pregnancies were by White teens, 4 percent by Black teens and 7 percent by Hispanic teens. 

These statistics show a very clear need for practical solutions and immediate action.  The Advocacy Work Group has suggested several measures to correct the lack of services, which includes more education and outreach to inform the public and creating a task force to specifically address the issue of teen pregnancy.  To read all of the proposed measures, go to the press release on the Montgomery County Council website. 

While there is much work that needs to be done to address the lack of comprehensive family services in Montgomery County, it is good to know that Councilmember Dutchy Trachtenberg and the “Reproductive Health, Education and Advocacy Work Group” are working diligently to come up with solutions.

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