U.S. gets C Score for Reproductive Health and Rights

Author: Population Institute
Published: Friday 9th January 2015
Summary: Nationally, the 2014 report card result shows reproductive health and rights improved incrementally over the past year.

The Population Institute today released its third annual report card on reproductive health and rights in the U.S. Fifteen states received a failing grade, and the U.S. as a whole received a "C." While that's up from an overall "C minus" in 2013, the trend for 2015 is likely to be down. Detailed results for each state and the District of Columbia are posted on www.populationinstitute.org/reportcard

"Nationally, the 2014 report card result shows reproductive health and rights improved incrementally over the past year," said Robert Walker, president of Population Institute. "The reported teenage birth rate, while still high, continued to fall, and as a result of the Affordable Care Act more women were able to access affordable reproductive health care. But there were also setbacks: 23 states refused to expand their Medicaid coverage leaving millions without increased access to services, and states continued their attacks on reproductive rights. This year, if Congress and/or states cut funding for family planning, impose arbitrary restrictions on abortion services, or repeal or limit contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. grade could slip backwards in 2015. "

"In the last couple of years Congress rejected efforts by social conservatives in the House to de-fund family planning programs, but the results of the 2014 elections could change that. Yesterday, a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was reintroduced into the House. At the state level several states are drastically reducing their funding for family planning and restricting funding to providers of abortion services. That trend is likely to continue."

The 2014 Population Institute report card drew on research by the Guttmacher Institute and used nine criteria to measure and rank reproductive health and rights in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The criteria included teenage and unintended pregnancy rates, prevention measures such as sex education in schools and access to emergency contraception, affordability of family planning services, and access to clinics. Based on these, each state was given a "core" letter grade. Some states got additional "plus" or a "minus" for factors not reflected in the core grade, such as pending changes or legislation.

Only seventeen states received a B- or higher. Just four states (California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington) received an "A". Fifteen states received a failing grade ("F") including Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Those results should be a call to action. While the US teen pregnancy rate has dropped to historic lows, it is still higher than most other industrialized nations. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. To change this will require ensuring that all women, including young women, have access to affordable reproductive health services, and that young people get a comprehensive sex education.

"Women's access to reproductive health care should not depend on where she lives, but increasingly it does," Walker said. "People who care about reproductive health and rights have a right to know how their state ranks vis-à-vis other states."

For a copy of the report, and more information including a state-by-state breakdown, visit the Population Institute's website (www.populationinstitute.org/reportcard) or contact Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy, jwetter@populationinstitute.org, (202) 544-3300, ext. 108.

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