22 September 2008

Proposed federal rule poses dangerous threat to reproductive rights of low-income women and women of color

The September 25 deadline for public comment on a proposed HHS rule that would allow healthcare providers and pharmacists to liken birth control and other forms of contraception to abortion and would further undermine women's right to sexual and reproductive health and justice, is fast approaching. (See last Friday's New York Times op-ed by Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards.)

The impact of the ruling would be far-reaching--it would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers nationwide that rely on federal financing for services. But it would impact low-income women and women of color the most. As Bethany Sousa points out on RH Reality Check,

Low-income women and women of color who rely more on public programs will ultimately be hit the hardest. Significant percentages of Latinas, Asia Pacific Islanders and African-American women work in low-wage jobs that don't offer benefits and therefore, they lack health insurance of any kind. Public programs such as Medicaid and Title X fill that void by covering prenatal, pregnancy-related care and contraceptive services. The deeply flawed regulation fails to serve the needs of these patients by erecting new barriers to their obtaining reproductive healthcare. Read more...

We talked with Desiree Flores, Ms. Foundation Program Officer for Health, who oversees the foundation's reproductive justice and HIV/AIDS advocacy funding. She added that the proposed rule is particularly troubling for low-income women and women of color because so many already receive substandard care and are often discouraged from questioning their healthcare providers about any information--or lack of information--they share. It would erect even more barriers for our grantees and their constituents--women who confront issues of access and discrimination on a daily basis--and place an immeasurable burden on women already struggling to navigate the medical system and advocate for their rights.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, a current Ms. Foundation grantee, are submitting joint comments to the HHS, focusing primarily on the impact on low-income women and women of color. You can read these comments and contribute your own here.

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