Although it doesn’t always seem this way, public policies have a ripple effect that oftentimes eventually affect us (or someone we know). This is why I like to stay informed about the policies that could greatly impact my life – especially those related to the choices I can make about my body and health.
Our nation is currently discussing many policies that could seriously help, or hurt, the health of young women. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011; check it out and remain informed (and politically active) in 2012:
THE GOOD: YOU CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HEALTH CARE REFORM! Although many of the major provisions of the new health care law won’t be available until 2014, some really exciting changes are already in place, including:
- It’s illegal to not cover youth (age 0-19)! Employer-based health insurance and new individual plans must cover youth, even if they have a pre-existing condition or a disability. Learn more here.
- You can stay on your parents’ health insurance until age 26! It doesn’t matter if you are married, not in school, not living with your parents, financially independent, or eligible to sign up for insurance through your job! Learn more here.
- You can get FREE preventative care! Preventative services such as immunizations, HIV and STI counseling, and services for expectant mothers are free now. In August of 2012, additional services for women, such as well-woman exams, contraceptives*, and domestic and interpersonal violence screening/counseling will also be free. See the full list of free preventative care here. Learn how to access these services here.
THE BAD: CRAZY POLITICS Unfortunately, even good policies that would expand access to reproductive health care and services are not immune to bad politics. The evidence:
- The Obama/Health and Human Services (HHS) Plan B Decision. In Early December, the Food and Drug Administration decided to allow emergency contraceptive Plan B (The Morning After Pill) to be sold over the counter to women under the age of 18. Then, in a surprising move (motivated more by politics than science), the HHS Secretary Sebelius publicly overruled the decision.
- *The Bishops Attack Free Contraceptives. In August of 2011, HHS Secretary followed NIH recommendations to include contraceptives with other now-free preventative services under health care reform. This was a GOOD move, as oral contraceptives have many benefits in addition to helping women control if and when they have children. Unfortunately, Catholic Bishops, and Catholic universities and hospitals protested the decision, wanting the Obama Administration to create wide exemptions…and the Obama Administration is considering it – YIKES!
- Fortunately, the Obama Administration decided to stick with the original rules but is now giving Catholic Universities, and Hospitals an extra year to comply.
- Tsk, Tsk Republicans Presidential Candidates. Mitt Romney has both supported the upholding of and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Newt Gingrich wants to define “personhood” as beginning at conception, thereby overturning Roe v. Wade for the entire country (watch). Rick Santorum wants to define personhood at contraception and criminalize abortion providers (watch). All of these policies could have drastically negative ramifications on women’s access to reproductive health care.
THE UGLY: ATTACKS ON THE HEALTH OF WOMEN AND YOUTH. In 2012, take a stand for women’s health!
- Many states pass Abortion Restrictions: Abortion Bans, Waiting Periods, Ultrasound Laws, Restricting Insurance Coverage of Abortion, Medication Abortions, and new Clinic Regulations that put many abortion providers out of business. Across the country, over 1,000 legislative actions were introduced to further restrict a woman’s “right to choose.” View Guttmacher’s summary of actions here.
- The Expansion of Abstinence-only Sex Education: Several states expanded abstinence only education (despite its proven ineffectiveness), raising the total number of states who require abstinence-only sex-education.
Stay informed and get involved! To learn more about health care reform, visit www.healthcare.gov. To stay abreast of what’s going on with women’s health issues in the 2012 election and learn how to get involved, check out Women are Watching.
***These views and opinions are of those of the guest blogger, the Passionate Advocate.