It is more important than ever that every woman can access costly but highly effective long-acting, reversible contraception.
Jacqueline B. Dixon and Revida Rahman | Guest columnists
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve watched women step up in tremendous ways. We all know a strong woman who is putting others before herself and her own health and well-being. We see this too often, especially when it comes to reproductive health.
Long-acting, reversible contraception
Access to medically-accurate information and effective forms of free contraceptive care is essential for women living in Middle Tennessee. Healthy women equal healthy children and healthy families. During this time of rebuilding from natural disasters and COVID-induced setbacks, it is more important than ever that every woman, regardless of her income level, insurance coverage or employment status, has an opportunity to access costly but highly effective birth control known as LARC (long-acting, reversible contraception).
LARC methods are over 99% effective and can help prevent unplanned pregnancies for 3-10 years. Tennessee ranks 41st in the nation for LARC usage, with just 7% of the reproductive population using this method, according to the Guttmacher Institute. If a woman decides this is the best contraception option for her, all barriers should be removed to make this option a reality.
The difference between financial success and poverty
When provided with free family planning resources, a woman is given the ability to make healthy decisions and plans for herself and her family. This could mean a woman earns a high school diploma, completes a college degree, secures stable employment or increases family stability before starting or adding to a family. Free LARC can make the difference between financial success and poverty for many women and their children.
There is a significant financial burden to the public from unintended pregnancies, and taxpayers save money by investing in family planning resources. For example, Tennessee saved $131 million in 2015 due to a decline in the teen birth rate, according to Power to Decide. Those who experience an unintended pregnancy often do not receive the level of prenatal care necessary for the best birth outcomes. Children of teen moms are more frequently born at a low birth weight and spend more time in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU). Babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a continuing problem in Tennessee due to the opioid crisis, often spend weeks in the NICU.
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Children born of unplanned pregnancies often encounter significantly higher adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affecting long-term infant and child welfare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cost of much of this care is paid for by Tennessee’s publicly funded Medicaid program, TennCare.
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A Step Ahead of Middle Tennessee
Funded in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and others, A Step Ahead of Middle Tennessee is working to strengthen families and the communities they live in by removing barriers for anyone of reproductive age seeking access to contraceptive care in Davidson and the 17 surrounding counties. A Step Ahead covers all LARC-related costs that clients would otherwise incur when they visit a partner clinic. Of the clients served by A Step Ahead, more than 4 out of 5 do not have health insurance, nearly all live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and more than half have less than a high school education.
When more teens and women are connected to free LARC services, economic security is increased, educational success is ensured, and family stability is improved, creating a pathway to prosperity for families in the Middle Tennessee community.
Jacqueline B. Dixon, Esq., is a shareholder at Weatherly & Dixon, PLLC, and the board president of A Step Ahead of Middle Tennessee. Revida Rahman, MBA, is co-founder of One WillCo and the vice president of A Step Ahead of Middle Tennessee.