Monday, August 2, 2010

It’s a No-Brainer.

In these economic times, it should not be difficult to imagine yourself as a young woman struggling to make ends meet for you and your partner on a single salary of less than $36,425 per year.  Now imagine you are standing at the pharmacy counter at the grocery store, tabulating in your head the cost of your birth control compared the food in your cart plus your rent and utilities. When your budget is stretched that thin, what item do you cut out? More than likely, you’re going to leave your prescription behind.

For roughly 250,000 women in Maryland, this is a daily reality.  Despite living in poverty, they are not eligible to access Medicaid’s family planning services, which include gynecological care, contraceptives and STI screening.  Under current law, women (with incomes at or below 250% of the poverty level) must become pregnant before they are eligible for these services under Medicaid.  Clearly, this is not the most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy.

An article in the July 30th Gazette highlights the problems with this policy.  In the recent Kids Count study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Maryland has the 42nd worst infant mortality rate in the country, at 8 per 1,000 live births.  This can be attributed to a lack of access to gynecological care pre-pregnancy and a lack of access to prenatal care.

Fortunately, as the Gazette points out, Maryland legislators are pursuing a solution.  The Family Planning Works Act, sponsored by Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-20) and Senator Catherine Pugh (D-40), would expand Medicaid’s family planning services to any woman whose income is at or below 250% of the poverty level.  This expansion would reduce the number of births that Medicaid has to pay for, saving the state millions of dollars.

As we’ve mentioned before, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland is proud to support this common sense measure and testified on its behalf this past February.  This summer alone, we have collected nearly 500 signatures from fellow Marylanders who support this bill.  Seventeen other states, including Mississippi and Virginia have made similar changes to their Medicaid programs.  Sign our petition to let your elected officials know that you expect them to support this measure in the next session, regardless of their party.  An idea that both helps women and saves the state money is a win-win proposition for all of us.

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