This local health initiative has expanded birth control access

Governors often say their most important job is expanding economic opportunity for all. This year, 36 states will hol...

Posted: May 17, 2018 2:14 PM
Updated: May 17, 2018 2:14 PM

Governors often say their most important job is expanding economic opportunity for all. This year, 36 states will hold gubernatorial elections, and you can be sure every single candidate will run on their plans to make the American dream attainable.

When I served as governor, I woke up every day focused on how to help all Delawareans achieve their full potential. In my early days in office, I focused on traditional policy areas to create economic opportunity across the state: increasing early childhood education, reforming a broken justice system, and developing better workforce training. I also talked to young men and women to better understand what's holding them back from career and financial success. Time and time again, I heard a similar refrain: "I was in college, but then I got pregnant," or "my girlfriend got pregnant and we weren't planning it."

To face this unexpected reality, they might have to drop out of education or the workforce, or juggle multiple jobs to support themselves and their child. In 2014, Delaware had the highest percentage of unplanned pregnancies in the country. I came to the conclusion that one of the most important things that we can do to expand opportunity is empower women to choose if and when they want to become pregnant.

You may be wondering why a 57-year-old, male, former governor is talking about birth control, but contraceptive access should be at the center of our policy plans, not sidelined as a "political" issue.

The problem of unplanned pregnancy in the United States is not a small one: Out of 6 million pregnancies each year, nearly 3 million are unplanned. The rate of unplanned pregnancy among low-income women is five times that of higher income women -- often because the places where they receive medical care do not provide comprehensive reproductive health care. In Delaware, our unplanned pregnancy rate is 57%, and the annual public cost is upwards of $90 million.

When I started looking closely at my state, I found significant barriers to access to contraception, such as a lack of trained providers, health centers requiring multiple appointments, and misinformation and poor patient counseling. In fact, in 2015, only 30% of publicly funded community health centers nationwide provided same-day access to the full range of contraception. One of the largest federally qualified health care centers in Delaware told me it had a six-month waitlist for the most effective methods: long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as IUDs and the implant.

That's unacceptable. This is a problem we can solve, and the solution is a win for everyone. It's good for families, society, and most importantly, it's what women themselves want: to be empowered to make their own decisions about their health and economic lives.

Delaware partnered with Upstream USA in 2014 to create Delaware CAN (Contraceptive Access Now), a public-private partnership to change our state's reproductive health care infrastructure for the long term. By working within our existing health care system, they provided training and technical assistance to over 150 health care delivery sites, and integrated reproductive care with primary care. Today, more than 126,000 women across Delaware have access to the full range of contraceptive methods, all available same-day and free of charge.

Some people may find this surprising, because providing access to affordable health care can be a polarizing topic, but this work was not met with any controversy. In fact, I even announced Delaware CAN in my last State of the State address in 2016, including a specific mention of "IUDs." The initial results of this work speak for themselves. Child Trends, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research group that studies the development of children, estimates there was a 15% decrease in unplanned pregnancies among some of our most at-risk patients from 2014-2016.

This substantial reduction is even more impressive when compared to the 1.3% decrease nationally over the same period. Recent patient surveys conducted in Delaware demonstrate women are making their own choices about their birth control. And that federally qualified health center with a six-month waitlist for LARCs has now eliminated the waitlist altogether. This all translates into women getting access to the care they deserve and making their own decisions for themselves and their families.

The national conversation today focuses on partisanship, bickering and talking heads. But there are so many examples of common-sense, effective solutions at the state and local level. Yes, even initiatives to expand birth control access. Our work in Delaware with Upstream demonstrates the success of a public-private partnership in a remarkably short period that's replicable and sustainable. By empowering women to choose when and if to become pregnant, the ripple effects will benefit generations of Delawareans. Future governors across the country have a responsibility to take a step back from the partisan rhetoric and look at what really works if they want to run on opportunity.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 331863

Reported Deaths: 7494
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22855279
Hinds22625437
Harrison19462326
Rankin14765286
Jackson14233251
Madison10658227
Lee10398178
Jones8713169
Forrest8164157
Lauderdale7528243
Lowndes6761150
Lamar665988
Lafayette6446124
Washington5497139
Bolivar4907134
Pearl River4889149
Oktibbeha476898
Panola4719112
Marshall4648106
Warren4612125
Pontotoc438873
Monroe4243137
Union424379
Neshoba4179180
Lincoln4088115
Hancock402788
Leflore3562125
Pike3511111
Tate348988
Alcorn343174
Sunflower342293
Adams331987
Yazoo330573
Scott330175
Simpson313690
Copiah311467
Itawamba309580
Coahoma308285
Tippah298368
Prentiss292563
Covington280183
Marion278980
Leake277975
Wayne269942
Grenada265688
George259851
Newton256064
Tishomingo235769
Winston235084
Jasper225748
Attala220373
Chickasaw215960
Stone209137
Holmes194974
Clay191554
Tallahatchie181542
Clarke181480
Calhoun177332
Smith175334
Yalobusha169240
Walthall140448
Lawrence137026
Greene134934
Amite131843
Noxubee131135
Perry130838
Montgomery130644
Carroll124531
Webster116732
Jefferson Davis112934
Tunica110827
Benton104425
Claiborne104231
Kemper100329
Humphreys99033
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw80919
Wilkinson73232
Jefferson69028
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 565510

Reported Deaths: 11468
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson828061584
Mobile44938853
Madison36534532
Tuscaloosa26589465
Shelby26409255
Montgomery25598623
Baldwin23319324
Lee16691179
Calhoun15030332
Morgan14877288
Etowah14563368
Marshall12723235
Houston11302292
Elmore10576217
St. Clair10449251
Limestone10420158
Cullman10198204
Lauderdale9883253
DeKalb9226191
Talladega8705187
Walker7545286
Autauga7388113
Jackson7216117
Blount7147139
Colbert6522142
Coffee5962131
Dale5224117
Russell463942
Chilton4603117
Covington4502125
Franklin439781
Tallapoosa4343156
Escambia414782
Chambers3813124
Dallas3674163
Clarke361562
Marion3354106
Pike323179
Lawrence3176101
Winston289672
Bibb276165
Geneva267383
Marengo257367
Barbour241860
Pickens238862
Butler233571
Hale230578
Fayette223863
Henry203345
Cherokee192347
Randolph192244
Monroe190241
Washington174539
Macon167252
Crenshaw163457
Clay161859
Cleburne158445
Lamar149138
Lowndes143854
Wilcox128431
Bullock125342
Conecuh117730
Coosa115229
Perry109628
Sumter107532
Greene95935
Choctaw63125
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