The recent announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now requires that insured women have free access to birth control, voluntary sterilization and various other types of preventative care has been a great move by the Obama administration. (Listen to The Brian Lehrer Show for a discussion on this.) But what of women that are uninsured?
According to The Institute for Reproductive Health, 27% of women aged nineteen to twenty-four are uninsured. An astounding 38% of Latin American and 17% of black American women are uninsured, while 13% of white women are also uninsured. Frighteningly, 36% of low-income American women have no access to health insurance. These women are not just unisured because they fit into the category of "welfare queens" demonized in the media. In fact many of the uninsured are women employed in part-time jobs that are not required to provide insurance to their employees, about "eight out of ten uninsured women are in families with at least one part-time or full-time worker."
Now consider that poor women, regardless of relationship status, are five times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than women with higher incomes. According to information gathered by Guttmacher, "in 1994, the unintended pregnancy rate among women with incomes below the federal poverty line was 88 per 1,000 women aged 15–44; it increased to 120 in 2001 and 132 in 2006-a 50% rise over the period. At the same time, the rate among higher-income women (those with incomes at or above 200% of the poverty line) fell from 34 in 1994 to 28 in 2001 and 24 in 2006-a 29% decrease. Poor women’s high rate of unintended pregnancy results in their also having high-and increasing-rates of both abortions (52 per 1,000) and unplanned births (66 per 1,000)." On top of that, the best way to prevent the spread of STDs, many of which lead to horrifying conditions like cervical cancer or endocarditis, is access to preventive care.
There are many reasons to be concerned by these statistics beyond the obvious environmental viewpoint of being concerned about over-population. Unintended pregnancies have long term consequences for both the woman carrying the baby and the community she lives in. It is all the more harder to improve our communities when we allow some to fall through the cracks.
Learn more about organizations that provide preventive healthcare to women in need and learn about how you can help. You can go to HealthCare.gov to find out ways you can get access to affordable health insurance. And check the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for information on the type of screenings you may need. Check below for information on various free clinics in the New York area.
NYC Free Clinic at NYU
Planned Parenthood has clinics in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx
NYC.gov information on free and confidential testing for STDs
NYC Bureau of Immunization
Brooklyn Free Clinic
Family Planning Benefit Program a New York state Medicaid Program