healthcare, Michigan Democrats, Women — July 23, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus unveils legislation to improve birth control access


Legislation aims to prevent unintended pregnancies and improve women’s access to essential healthcare services.

No matter where you stand on a woman’s right to choose, everybody wants to see fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Because we know that abstinence education doesn’t work — after all, biology is what it is, and people are inclined to have sex when given the chance, especially hormonally-charged teenagers — the real solution is broader access to birth control.

In Michigan, the unintended pregnancy rate is as high as 80 percent among young women ages 15-19. That’s an awful lot of unintended pregnancies. To help reverse that trend, the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus has unveiled legislation that would help women take charge of their reproductive health.

As Rep. Winnie Brinks, chairwoman of the caucus, said at a press conference that family planning is a cornerstone of women’s health.

This package of legislation includes measures that would make it easier for women to access the contraceptives they need, prohibit the discrimination against women on the basis of contraceptive use and call on the state to take steps to reduce Michigan’s high rate of teen pregnancies. I am hopeful the Legislature will work together to pass these critically important proposals.

In Michigan, a cutback in funding for family planning has correlated to an increase in unintended pregnancies, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Between fiscal years 2001 and 2012, funding for pregnancy prevention in Michigan has fallen 91.6 percent. At the same time, the percentage of pregnancies that are unintended has increased from 72.4 percent to 82.1 percent for women ages 15-19, and has increased from 44 percent to 51 percent for women ages 15-44. Meanwhile, in Colorado – where funding for pregnancy prevention has increased – the teen pregnancy rate has fallen by 40 percent.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. pointed to the data:

Evidence shows that free and reduced cost access to contraception decreases unintended pregnancy and birth rates. Providing adequate reproductive health care protections and resources enables women and men to plan their families and improves the economic stability of our state.

Legislation proposed by the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus would:

  • Prohibit employers from discriminating against women on the basis of their contraceptive use
  • Require employers to inform employees and job applicants of reproductive health care coverage
  • Require the state to develop and distribute information about emergency contraception
  • Require health facilities that treat women following a sexual assault to make emergency contraceptives available to them
  • Resolve the state to take steps intended to lower the rate of teen pregnancies

“Reproductive health coverage is essential to the decision making process that any woman or man goes through when searching for a job,” said Rep. Gretchen Driskell. “We have the right to know if this basic coverage is provided before accepting a job, and if there are any changes to it while employed.”

[Image credit: Jenny Lee Silver, via Flickr.]