Women with little or no health insurance would be eligible for free, long-lasting birth control under a program proposed by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
Announced by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) at a community college in Alexandria on Friday, the $9 million federal grant would cover intrauterine devices and skin implants as well as outreach to eligible women, training for clinicians and a study of the program’s impact.
“This is all about educating and empowering women to decide when and if they become pregnant,” Northam said at Northern Virginia Community College. “When women have access to this contraception, they choose on their own time when to start a family.”
Northam, who is running for governor in 2017, has been pushing for such a program for months. He wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in Auguston the issue and argued for expanded access to birth control during a Brookings Institution event in October.
On Friday, he pointed to a similar program in Colorado that led to a 40 percent decline in the birthrate among teens between 2009 and 2013. The Colorado governor’s office said the state saved $42.5 million in health-care expenditures associated with teen births. And the abortion rate for 15- to 19-year-olds in participating counties fell 35 percent.
The devices would be distributed through Department of Health centers across the state. There is no requirement in Virginia for minors to have parental consent before having a contraceptive device implanted.
“It’s going to help women, and it’s also going to help the Commonwealth of Virginia economically,” Northam, a pediatric neurosurgeon, said of the program.
Although it relies on federal funds, the contraceptive program requires the approval of Virginia’s legislature, now controlled by Republicans, before it can be launched.
A spokesman for the Virginia House and Senate said lawmakers would review the proposal as part of the budget process. This year’s legislative session begins Jan. 13.
Hopefully the General Assembly will do the right thing. When women can control their own reproduction, cyclical poverty is cut. Children are expensive. Not only must parents provide food, shelter and clothing, but they also have to find child care. Those who can’t afford it are often on public assistance. We pay for that.
Let’s play this one smart, rather than ideological. Let’s prevent both the need for abortion and the need for increased public assistance by preventing unwanted pregnancy. It’s an incredibly simple concept.