Mamahood by Choice, Not Chance

This article is one in a series published in collaboration with our sister organization, Strong Families.

“Since I lost my insurance, I can’t afford birth control, but my roommate gave me a couple months worth of her expired pills, so I should be OK until they run out.” 

I just about choked when a friend said this to me. I pulled out my business card for the Women’s Community Clinic and pressed it into her hand. “Please call. No one should have to wing their birth control.” However, the sad fact is that family planning needs often go unmet and politicians spend a lot of time making birth control even harder to get. 

Even in the politically “blue” state of California, women lack access to family planning services and to contraception — either because they are uninsured or underinsured, or their community lacks a health care professional who can provide birth control or family planning information and counseling. This means women face long wait times getting an appointment in the few locations that exist, or driving a long distance. 

Since the early 1990s, I have watched bill after ballot measure after Presidential Executive Order pass in state capitols and the White House that make it harder and harder for women to determine when they want to become mamas. The good news is that California might buck this regressive trend. This year a bill has been introduced by Assemblymember Holly Mitchell that could actually expand access to birth control for women. Imagine that. 

Assembly Bill (AB) 2348 seeks to improve access to birth control by building on current practice and existing law and creating an authorization for registered nurses (RNs) to dispense contraceptives according to a standardized procedure. 

Today, RNs working in community clinics may dispense drugs based on an order from a physician. AB 2348 seeks to clarify current law by authorizing RNs to dispense birth control in a community clinic setting based on an order by lawful prescribers (like nurse practitioners or certified nurse midwives), which is the current community standard. 

Can we afford to pass up this opportunity? No. Only 71 percent of women needing publicly funded family planning services received care through state programs like Family PACT. And unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers $11 billion every year. Family planning services are not merely cost effective, they are cost saving. 

They are also life saving. This Mama’s Day, I encourage all women to stand up and say, “Mamahood by Choice!” Becoming a mama should always be a decision that a woman makes with her partnerand not because she doesn’t have access to family planning. 

My friend who was “winging” her birth control did indeed come into the Women’s Community Clinic. She was enrolled in Family PACT and we got her on the birth control method of her choice. I just worry about all the women who are not yet ready to be a mama and don’t have access to clinics like this one. 

This Mama’s Day ask your state representative to support AB 2348 (Mitchell). 

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