State of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: 2018 Year in Review

 

Over the past year, sexual and reproductive health and rights have endured unending attacks from the administration, Congress, and state legislatures. This year, women and girls around the country have watched as access to vital reproductive health services and funding have hung in the balance. Jacqueline Ayers with Planned Parenthood reviews 2018 with us, and talks through the ups and downs of SRHR this past year.

As always, attempts to defund Planned Parenthood were ever-present in 2018. In fact, Paul Ryan stated that one of the first acts of the 115th Congress would be to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. The administration-run Department of Health and Human Services also encouraged states to try to limit funding to Planned Parenthood by preventing their health centers from participating in the Medicaid program.

Title X, the nation’s historically bipartisan federal program dedicated to birth control access, also served as tool for those insistent on attempting to block access to reproductive health care. The administration attempted to drastically change the program through a funding alteration, as well as creating a new rule that barred providers from giving abortion-related information to their patients. This proposed new rule is known as the domestic gag rule.

1 in 5 women rely on Medicaid as their source of healthcare. Efforts to dismantle Medicaid simultaneously stigmatize the working poor and create unnecessary barriers to accessing vital healthcare.

There have been endless attacks on access to birth control. A leaked memo in May of 2017 revealed plans to roll back the ACA’s extremely popular birth control mandate, and in October, the administration created a rule that would allow employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage on their insurance plans for religious or moral reasons.

This year, we have also seen a proposed rule which would allow an entity to refuse healthcare (including transgender care, birth control, abortion care, etc.,) based on religious or moral beliefs. This rule has not been finalized, yet. HHS also announced the creating of a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” within the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which would protect health workers from repercussions of refusing care that goes against their religious beliefs.

There has been an unfortunate attempt at censorship surrounding SRHR issues. This year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department have refrained from using phrases like ‘sexual and reproductive health care.’

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, meant to provide comprehensive sex education to young people, has also been under direct threat. The administration has pushed ‘sexual-risk avoidance,’ or abstinence-only education. This program, under the current administration, has not been based in science nor LGBTQ+ inclusive.

The good news is that, so far, we haven’t lost a lot of the progress that we have made. The Affordable Care Act is still in place, the birth control benefit still exists, Planned Parenthood is still funded and Medicaid hasn’t been dismantled. Still, there will be many more attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and it is important to be prepared!

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

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