The Poor State of Reproductive Health and Rights in the U.S.

Let’s talk about sex. Mainly, let’s talk about how poorly America is preparing individuals to handle sex and reproductive health.

The Population Institute released its 2015 report examining the reproductive health and rights of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the U.S. receives a “D+”.  Only seventeen states earned a “B-” or higher. Last year, the country scored a “C”. Yikes.

The Population Institute has a simple grading system that assesses these four indicators:

  1. Effectiveness: looks at the percentage of unintended pregnancies and the rate of teen pregnancy
  2. Prevention:  surveys if the state promotes comprehensive sex education and if the state supports emergency room access to emergency contraception
  3. Affordability: checks if there are policies to make birth control affordable to the uninsured or those with low-incomes
  4. Access:  looks for the state requirements that dissuade individuals from using resources like family planning and abortion services

There are a few states that are doing a stellar job in educating teens about sex and connecting individuals to the resources they need. Oregon deserves a shout out for going above and beyond by granting over the counter access to oral contraceptives to anyone over the age of 18 or with a prior prescription.

Unfortunately, most states are doing a lousy job handling reproductive rights. The states are all over the place map when it comes to required sex and HIV education. TRAP Laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) continue to constrict safe access to resources well beyond the access to abortion services. These laws are affecting areas where reproductive health care is needed the most.

Where you grow up matters. Teenagers in California will leave high school with a comprehensive sex education, will have Medicaid to cover family planning services, and will not have to jump through bogus hoops to have abortion access. Meanwhile, teenagers in Virginia may or may not receive any sex education, will not have their Medicaid program expanded under the Affordable Health Care Act, and has several TRAP laws that are beyond ensuring patient safety.

Robert Walker, the President of the Population Institute, captured this disparity, stating:

“A woman’s reproductive health should not depend on her income or where she lives, but increasingly in does. Women in many areas are experiencing reduced access to reproductive health care services.”

Sex happens, and it usually starts happening with teenagers. Stripping reproductive rights and health care access to combat abortion “factories” is asinine. Imagine if all of the attention on expanding TRAP laws was redirected to focus on keeping our teenagers, women, and mothers-to-be healthy, happy, and prepared.


Read the entire report here or check out the states in our Region 3:

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