New York Introduces Legislation to Keep Free Birth Control

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans took the first major step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act which ensures free access to contraceptives for millions of American women. With replacement plans for Obamacare still shrouded in uncertainty, many women are understandably concerned that they might lose this valuable reproductive healthcare service. Following the election of Donald Trump in November, many healthcare clinics struggled to keep up with demand as women raced to stock up on long-acting birth control options like implants and IUDS.

Fortunately for New Yorkers, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is taking steps to protect access to free birth control, even if the Affordable Care Act is successfully repealed. On Wednesday, January 11 Schneiderman introduced the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act to the state legislature—a bill designed to “protect and enhance New Yorkers’ access to cost-free contraception.”

If passed by the state legislature, the bill would “require state-governed health insurance policies to provide cost-free coverage for all FDA-approved methods of birth control, including emergency contraception.” It would also prohibit insurance companies from enacting restrictions that can limit or delay contraceptive access. In the future, the bill would automatically cover men’s contraceptive methods in the same fashion as women’s contraceptives. Another provision included in the bill would allow people to access up to a year’s worth of contraceptive options at a time.

“New Yorkers have a right to comprehensive, cost-free access to birth control. With the Affordable Care Act under attack in Washington, it’s all the more critical that New York act now to protect these right,” said Schneiderman in his announcement. “The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act will ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the birth control method they need to stay healthy and effectively plan for their future—no matter what happens in congress.”

Following Schneiderman’s announcement, the proposed bill was received enthusiastically by a number of state lawmakers. If all goes well, the bill will make its way to Governor Cuomo’s desk and become a law this year.

Over-The-Counter Birth Control Could Be Coming to the US

Since oral contraceptives were first introduced in the 1960s, scientists have conducted extensive research on these popular birth control options that has repeatedly demonstrated their safety and effectiveness. Likewise, many physicians have argued that they should be available as over-the-counter birth control options, rather than medications that require a prescription. This idea has even received bipartisan support in congress, although the two parties tend to disagree about who should pay for over-the-counter birth control.

Until recently, the primary roadblock facing over-the-counter birth control has been the unwillingness of pharmaceutical companies to undertake the long FDA approval process. Now, however, a French company called HRA Pharma is working with the Massachusetts-based nonprofit group IBIS Reproductive Health to get the FDA approval that would bring over-the-counter contraceptives to the US market.

“At HRA, we are proud of our pioneering work to expand access to contraception for millions of women,” said a company spokesperson in a statement to Vox. “Oral Contraceptives are some of the best-studied medicines on the market today and enjoy longstanding support from medical and public health experts.”

HRA Pharma has reportedly already begun the early stages of the research and application process, but they have been hesitant to provide concrete estimates as to when their OTC contraceptive will be ready to go to market. “Within a few years,” seems to be the general consensus from the company.

There has been some concern that the approval could be delayed or even halted if a Republican-controlled Congress makes good on its promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, though, the approval process will ultimately fall on FDA scientists, not politicians.

It might take a couple of years for over-the-counter contraceptives to come to a pharmacy near you, but we’re thrilled to hear that this first big hurdle is finally being overcome thanks to the efforts of HRA Pharma and IBIS Reproductive health.

Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” Makes It to Governor’s Desk

Last week, the Ohio state legislature passed a bill that would ban abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy. The bill makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest – only cases where the mother’s life is at stake. The bill is known as a “heartbeat” bill because a fetal heartbeat can first be detected about six weeks after conception. If the bill becomes law, it will be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

First though, it must be signed by Ohio’s historically moderate governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich. A few months ago, even the bill’s staunchest supporters didn’t expect it to have a chance in the state legislature. Following the election of Donald Trump, however, the anti-abortion movement has gained a new surge in momentum. Now, abortion rights activists are concerned that even a moderate like John Kasich might be swayed into signing the heartbeat bill into law.

Because the heartbeat bill violates the standards on abortion legislation set by the Supreme Court, there’s a good chance that Kasich will not sign the bill. After all, many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant at six weeks. But even if he doesn’t sign the six-week ban, he may still sign another 20-week ban on abortion that was also approved by the state legislature last week. Like the heartbeat bill, this 20-week ban would make no exceptions in cases of rape and incest.

If the 20-week ban becomes a law, it will almost certainly face a fight in the Supreme Court as well. But whether or not either of these bills becomes law, the troubling fact remains that a six-week ban on abortion is being seriously considered in a relatively moderate swing state. Following a number of important abortion rights victories in the Supreme Court earlier this year, this is a sobering reminder that there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to protect women’s reproductive rights in America.

Birth Control Myths [Infographic]

There are so many myths and old wives tales surrounding sex and birth control that it is impossible to know where they all started. You have probably heard that you cannot get pregnant during your period or while you are breast feeding. Although these statements are said all the time, they are not true, which is why South Avenue Women’s Services has created the infographic below.

South Avenue Women’s Services has compiled a list of the top 12 birth control myths we hear, as well as the facts behind them, providing you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions regarding your health and body.

birth control myths infographic

Clinics Struggle to Meet Demand for Long-Term Birth Control

Driven by fears that a Trump presidency will make it harder to access contraceptive options, women across the country have begun flocking to reproductive health centers to get birth control before President Obama’s term ends. Long-acting options such as IUDs have seen a particularly significant spike in demand since last month’s election. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to cover birth control without charging copays. If Donald Trump follows through on his promise to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare bill, however, free birth control could become a thing of the past in 2017.

Now, with demand for long-acting contraception soaring, budgetary restrictions are making it hard for some clinics to meet the needs of their patients. Although the Planned Parenthood Federation of American has received a record number of donations and volunteer offers in the weeks following the election, other reproductive health organizations have not been so lucky.

The Wyoming Health Council, for example, which manages 15 publicly-funded family planning centers throughout the state, hadn’t seen any donations as of November 23. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood operates just one clinic in Wyoming. This leaves a huge burden on smaller state-run organizations like the Wyoming Health Council.

In other states where budgets are already tight, the surge in demand has been especially difficult to keep up with. While clinics in these states typically keep a few IUDs in stock at any given time, they simply can’t afford to keep much more than that on hand for long periods of time. A brief spike in demand might be manageable with budget reallocations, but if the trend continues it could spell bigger problems for family planning clinics in the coming months and years.

“Our demand for IUDs has about doubled, but we don’t know if that’s a short term spike or not,” said Kate Brogan, vice president of public affairs for Maine Family Planning in an interview with NPR. “I think it would take a more consistent increase for it to begin to be an issue.”

For now, clinics are coping successfully with the increased demand for contraceptives. But if the Affordable Care Act is repealed or Title X funding is cut in 2017, budgetary restrictions at regional family planning clinics could become a far more pressing issue.

“If we lost Title X funding—oh, gosh, given the history of Title X battles in congress, I think that’s a real question,” said Brogan in her interview. “Right now we have over 50 clinics. There’s no way we’d be able to maintain that without Title X.”

With public funding for family planning clinics in jeopardy, it’s more important than ever for private citizens to support their regional healthcare organizations with donations and volunteer efforts. Every little bit helps. Together, we can protect the future of women’s healthcare in America.

Abortion Myths [Infographic]

The biggest fear that women have when it comes to abortion is that the procedure is not safe, which is just not true. More than 99.75% of abortions performed in the United States do not cause major medical problems, making them as statistically risky as a colonoscopy.

Abortion can be a controversial subject, which unfortunately means that there is a lot of uncertainty – and many myths – surrounding the procedure. In our latest infographic, South Avenue Women’s Services discusses eight of the most common abortion myths we have heard, providing you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about your health and future.

For more information, please call our Rochester, New York office at 585-271-3850.

abortion myths infographic

13 Facts About Your Period That Everyone Should Know [Infographic]

Did you know that the average woman uses nearly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime? Or that your period can change the sound of your voice?

There are so many unique and interesting things to learn about the female body and the way that our menstrual cycles affect us. Whether you are looking to learn more about your body, are trying to teach your daughter more about her period, or are just looking to study the beauty that is being a woman, South Avenue Women’s Services has uncovered some interesting facts that you may not yet know about your period.

Check out the infographic below to learn more, and don’t forget to share these 13 facts with the women in your life!

period facts infographic

Types of Birth Control [Infographic]

When it comes to choosing a form of birth control, there are many different types to consider and a multitude of factors that will affect the decision you make. From prescription options like oral contraceptives, patches and IUDs to over-the-counter options like condoms and contraceptive sponges, the choice can seem a bit overwhelming.

Depending on your lifestyle, beliefs and plans for the future, a different method may work best for you than will for the next woman. This makes it extremely important for each of us to know our options so that we can make an educated, informed decision.

Not sure where to begin when researching your contraceptive options? Get started with the infographic below!

Consider the factors at the top as you read about each of your options, and please contact South Avenue Women’s Services at 585-271-3850 with any questions you may have.

types of birth control infographic

Federal Judge Blocks Abortion Restrictions in Alabama

In spite of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade has guaranteed American women the right to an abortion for over 40 years, some states continue to try to pass restrictive legislation designed to make it harder for women to seek safe abortions. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court blocked a series of laws in Texas, Louisiana and Missouri that forced family planning clinics to close by requiring doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. As a result of these laws, women in Missouri traveled an average of 100 miles round trip to reach the state’s only Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

Now, a federal judge has blocked two more laws in Alabama that place different kinds of restrictions on abortion clinics. The first law prohibits clinics from being within 2,000 feet of K-8 public schools. The second law bans a procedure used to induce abortions in the second trimester. In his ruling, Judge Myron Thompson noted that the laws could force clinics in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa to close, and put an undue—and potentially dangerous—burden on women seeking abortions. He also noted that “This burden would become particularly devastating for low-income women” who would need to take long trips to get to one of Alabama’s three remaining clinics.

In light of these concerns, Judge Thompson issued a preliminary injunction and ruled that the laws were likely to be found unconstitutional. The laws, which were signed in May, were set to go into effect on August 1. Thanks to Thompson’s ruling, however, the clinics in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa will remain open, and women in Alabama will continue to be able to access to safe abortions.

Experts Recommend Expanding Women’s Healthcare Coverage

In 2012 the Institute of Medicine (IoM) – now known as the National Academy of Medicine – compiled a list of eight recommended preventative healthcare services that insurance providers should provide for women without requiring them to pay money out of pocket. These services included routine STD screenings, breastfeeding support and supplies, FDA-approved methods of contraception and treatments for domestic violence and gestational diabetes. Today, most healthcare plans are required to cover these services without charging copays.

When the IoM published its recommendations, it also advised that the list should be updated at least every five years to keep in step with the current scientific knowledge. Now, the group has drafted a second updated list which adds a number of other preventative healthcare services to its list of services that should be covered free of charge.

Foremost among these services are regular breast cancer screenings. Under the new guidelines, women age 40 an older would be eligible for free mammograms every one to two years. Follow-up tests and procedures such as biopsies would also be covered if a mammogram were to uncover evidence of cancer growth.

In fact, the new list recommends that a wide variety of follow-up procedures should be covered without copays as well. This way, if a preventative healthcare service were to uncover a potentially serious health issue, women wouldn’t be forced to pay for additional testing out of pocket. The list also recommends covering contraception methods for men such as condoms and vasectomies. This would allow women and their male partners to take more complete control of their contraceptive options, without having to worry about expensive insurance fees.

The group is expected to submit its final recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services by December 1, 2016. If the proposed changes are adopted by the end of the year, they would go into effect for most insurance plans in 2018.