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Topic: birth control

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November 13, 2014 at 6:04 AM

King County Council wisely steps up to save public health, women’s health services

Hats off to the King County Council for unveiling a proposed 2015-2016 budget this week that keeps the county’s 10 public health clinics open — at least for now.

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott

“The council recognized the importance of these services, especially maternity support services and the [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children] that are unique to the county and that others don’t provide,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.

Faced with a $15 million annual shortfall, Public Health — Seattle & King County has been scrambling to find partners to take over some or all of the direct services provided at its clinics, including primary care, family planning, maternity support and supplemental nutrition for infants. An Oct. 30 Seattle Times editorial commended efforts by cities and local health care partners to keep sites open in Federal Way and White Center. Public health employees even agreed to wage concessions, but it wasn’t enough to close the funding gap.

Before this week’s announcement, two sites were slated for closure in January — the Northshore Public Health Center in Bothell and the more heavily-used Auburn Public Health Clinic. (I profiled one of the clinic’s patients in a Nov. 3 blog post.) Last week, I followed up on a community effort to save the Auburn site, which included pledges from various groups totaling about $700,000. That amount fell short of the $1.6 million needed to prevent closure.

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Comments | Topics: birth control, king county, public health

November 6, 2014 at 12:12 PM

More community action necessary to save women’s health services in South King County

The race to find enough funding to keep the Auburn Public Health Clinic open just got a nice boost from local funders, but it’s not enough to prevent closure in January.

(Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, King County Executive Dow Constantine held a news conference at Auburn City Hall to announce those organizations that have stepped up to help Public Health — Seattle & King County keep the Auburn Public Health Center open. (Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

More cities, nonprofits and businesses still need to step up to help thousands of South King County’s most vulnerable women maintain access to family-planning services, as well as support programs for mothers and newborns.

On Wednesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other county leaders announced a coalition has come forward and pledged between $550,000 to about $700,000 total to help Public Health — Seattle & King County offset a revised shortfall of about $1.6 million to keep the only standalone family-planning clinic (and its two satellite offices) accessible.

Here’s the key date for the community to act: Nov. 17. On that day, the Metropolitan King County Council is set to vote on the budget for the next two years. A blueprint will be revealed about a week before.

The more funds can be identified before then, the less likely the county will have to consider peeling off resources from other critical service areas.

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Comments | Topics: birth control, king county, public health

November 3, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Save women’s health, maternity support services in South King County

Dariia Leavitt, 25, is just one among thousands of clients watching closely to see if the Auburn Public Health Clinic remains open next January.

Dariia Leavitt signed up as a maternity support services client in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Dariia Leavitt)

Dariia Leavitt signed up as a maternity support services client at the Auburn Public Health Clinic in 2011. Today, she goes to the clinic for family planning services. (Photo courtesy of Dariia Leavitt)

Her story helps to make the case for why last Friday’s Seattle Times editorial called on elected officials, health providers and women’s health advocates to find about $1.7 million as soon as possible to keep the site open. Without that money or partners, the county will have to close a vulnerable section of South King County’s only standalone family planning clinic in January.

Leavitt first sought help three years ago after her daughter, Eve, was born. At the time, Leavitt had just arrived from the Ukraine, could not drive and spoke little English. After her mother-in-law learned about the Auburn clinic, Leavitt initially signed up as a client for Maternity Support Services (MSS). Thanks to this state program administered by King County, nurses conducted home visits to check on the baby’s health, offered Leavitt tips for better breastfeeding and answered her questions about being a first-time mother.

“It meant a lot to me,” Leavitt said earlier this month in one of the clinic’s meeting rooms, as Eve slept in her arms. The baby “got help when she needed it. We didn’t have to wait until I had insurance or could drive a car, and I didn’t have to borrow any money from anybody because I could afford paying the bill myself.

And even if I didn’t have the money at that time, I could pay the next time,” she added. “You can’t do that at regular clinics. It really helped me. I didn’t have to get a credit card.”

About 10,700 clients in the Auburn area — including women, teens, children and infants — rely on Public Health’s nurses and staff to learn parenting skills and access supplemental nutrition programs.

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Comments | Topics: auburn, birth control, king county

October 3, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Washington lawmakers don’t need to use Hobby Lobby ruling to drum up votes

Months after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the controversial “Hobby Lobby” ruling allowing privately held corporations to deny payment for certain types of birth control for female employees, Washington lawmakers are finding ways to fight back. This is to be expected. Washington is one of the most progressive states on protecting reproductive rights. Just weeks before election day, some Democrats are using this issue as a strategy to put them back in control of the state Senate, led by the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus since 2012.

Voters should look deeper before they take the bait.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt. (Credit: Thanh Tan / The Seattle Times).

On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers announced they are planning to file legislation — a “work-around” — next session to ensure employers do not deny women the full range of birth control options available to them through the Affordable Care Act. Joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, state Sens. David Frockt, Kevin Ranker, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Karen Keiser said they are drafting a bill that would likely use the state’s anti-discrimination and Human Rights Commission rules.

The press event was staged at a community center two blocks from a Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open Friday in Seattle at 13200 Aurora Avenue North. Good to know they are doing their homework, but this was clearly also a bid to secure the women’s vote ahead of the November general election.

In a press release distributed to reporters, the Democrats warned their efforts to fight the Hobby Lobby decision might be hindered if they do not take back the majority in the upper chamber. In particular, they targeted Republican Sens. Andy Hill, Steve O’Ban and Democrat-turned-Republican candidate Mark Miloscia. If “elected or re-elected this year, it is unlikely that any progress on ensuring individual reproductive choices will be achieved,” they warned.

Again, voters should be skeptical. There’s no bill in place yet to be opposed, or supported, by members of either party.

Washington State has long supported a woman’s right to privacy and access when it comes to reproductive health care, including abortion care. Even before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1972, this HistoryLink story explains how Washington voters passed Referendum 20 in 1970 legalizing abortion in the early months of pregnancy. In 1991, voters passed Initiative 120, which guarantees that every “individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control” and abortion (with few exceptions) and the “state shall not discriminate against the exercise of these rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.”

If this were Texas, where I used to report on women’s health politics from AustinI’d say go all out. Fight the good fight. But it’s Washington, the friendliest state in the nation when it comes to reproductive freedom and lack of barriers to birth control and abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America gives the state an A+ grade for choice-related laws. We don’t have lawmakers demanding transvaginal ultrasounds, slashing family planning funds or passing policies to force abortion clinic closures. Vigilance is appreciated, but state legislators’ priority during the next session must be to tackle the other urgent task of preserving the state’s fragile social safety net and funding public education.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, birth control, hobby lobby

July 3, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Make birth control pills available over the counter

This week’s Supreme Court decision favoring Hobby Lobby’s religious rights over the ability of its employees to access a full range of birth control options is a bad one, but it’s also a catalyst for change.

Supporters of employer-paid birth control rally in front of the Supreme Court before the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Supporters of employer-paid birth control rally in front of the Supreme Court before the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One way to get around the politics of the Affordable Care Act is to make birth control as accessible and affordable as possible to all women, regardless of whether they have insurance coverage.

As Vox reported on Monday, some Republicans are now in favor of taking birth control out of the insurance arena and making it available to women over the counter. Reproductive health experts have been studying and advocating this approach for a long time. The Seattle Times published an editorial in December 2012 that encouraged the FDA to consider the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) recommendation to provide oral contraceptives (aka the pill) to women without a prescription.

Here’s an excerpt:

Many women cannot afford the cost of birth control or the doctor’s visit necessary to access the different methods sold on the market.

One consequence is that half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, according to the ACOG. That figure hasn’t changed in 20 years…

Other forms of contraceptives, including intrauterine devices and shots, are not part of this equation. But after decades of study, birth-control pills have proved to be a common, cost-effective method for many.

No drug is without risk, not even aspirin. Do we trust women to follow instructions? Are they capable of detecting adverse side effects and seeking help if they need it? The ACOG’s decision was based on evidence that suggests they are.

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Comments | Topics: birth control, hobby lobby

January 27, 2014 at 6:06 AM

Huckabee’s lame attempt to incite women voters

Another week, another Republican attempt to appease women gone wrong. The political snafus keep coming after Democratic President Barack Obama won a majority of the female vote in 2012. (See this Gallup pre-election poll.)

Last Thursday, former preacher-turned-governor-turned-media personality Mike Huckabee fit the words “Uncle Sugar,” “birth control” and “libido” into a statement about women. Well, there’s a pretty good way to get attention before yet another potential run for president in 2016.

Here’s text of the controversial part of Gov. Mike Huckabee’s speech last week before a Republican National Committee audience, courtesy of Yahoo News’ Chris Moody. Watch the clip in this YouTube video:

Enough of your nonsense, Mike Huckabee.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, birth control, mike huckabee