Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maryland Highlights New Family Planning Works Act

Like many other bills passed this spring by the General Assembly, the Family Planning Works Act received little fanfare at the time. But come Jan. 1, this important piece of legislation will provide free family planning services for 35,000 additional low-income women in Maryland.

Passage of the Family Planning Works Act is an important step in Baltimore’s ongoing efforts to improve birth outcomes by reducing a stubbornly high teen pregnancy rate and the number of unintended and unplanned pregnancies. Approximately 1 in 6 of all births in Baltimore occurs to teen mothers. Our teen pregnancy rate of 64/1,000 is twice that of the state and almost twice that of the United States. Far too many of these teen births are unintended. Our teenagers need better access to pregnancy prevention information, resources and support networks.

Maryland ranks near the bottom nationally in its rates of infant mortality and other birth outcomes measures, and Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and the Eastern Shore have the most critical women and infant health needs in the state. This expansion will improve birth outcomes by reversing infant mortality and low birth weight rates, improving the health of mothers and babies, and reducing the number of abortions. Additionally, the reduction in unintended pregnancies and births is expected to produce $20 million to $40 million in savings for the state.

This move has public support. According to a survey by The National Women's Law Center and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 76% of voters strongly support efforts to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in America through common-sense measures such as comprehensive sex education and access to contraception.
The Family Planning Works Act will help women of all ages—especially many teens living in Baltimore City—with the access they need to obtain the safest and most effective forms of birth control…for free.

Women can sign up immediately, and free family planning services – including breast and reproductive cancer screenings, pelvic exams, sexually transmitted disease testing, pregnancy counseling, and contraception – will be available beginning on January 1st. The Act allows all women up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level – about $22,000 per year for a single woman – to receive free family planning services.

I urge women to sign up now so they can start receiving services on January 1st when the new law takes effect. If you are a working woman who could not qualify for coverage before, I encourage you to call 311 to get connected to one of our clinics today. If you are a teen thinking about engaging in sexual activity, or if you are having unprotected sex—call 311 and get connected to learn about birth control counseling options.
This service is free. It and will improve your health, and the health of your family.

This expansion is very positive news for Baltimore. By helping more of our teens and young women better plan for their future and the future of their families, we can positively impact health outcomes citywide.

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