Women’s Health Issues commentary: Physicians and researchers call for increased advocacy to address threats to women’s health

WASHINGTON, DC (November 15, 2017)— In a new commentary in the journal Women’s Health Issues, a high-profile group of physicians and researchers who specialize in women’s health call on the public and providers to mobilize in defense of programs and benefits that affect women’s health. “The Risk of Remaining Silent: Addressing the Current Threats to Women’s Health,” by Claire D. Brindis of the University of California, San Francisco and her colleagues from institutions across the U.S., highlights recent federal policies that imperil women’s access to care and information.

Women’s Health Issues is the official journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, which is based in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

The authors begin the commentary by noting that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded insurance coverage and advanced women’s reproductive health care. They warn that these gains, as well as other programs that improve the health of U.S. women and adolescents, are at risk of losing federal support. While Congress has so far voted down bills that would have substantially repealed the ACA, recent actions by the Trump administration threaten to destabilize the individual insurance market.

The ACA’s mandate that commercial insurers cover women’s preventive care, including contraception, without cost-sharing has allowed millions of women to obtain effective methods of contraception without out-of-pocket payments. Recent Trump administration moves to allow employers to opt out of this provision will most likely result in more unintended pregnancies, Brindis and her co-authors warn, with disproportionate impacts on low-income women and adolescents. Efforts to deny Medicaid reimbursement to Planned Parenthood and eliminate funding for the Title X program that allows millions of low-income women and men to access high-quality reproductive healthcare would further increase unintended pregnancies, they write.

Access to contraceptive care isn’t the only factor in sexual and reproductive health; high-quality, comprehensive education also matters. The commentary authors criticize the Trump administration’s abrupt elimination of funding for 81 organizations that were implementing and evaluating evidence-based sex education programs, and the likely redirection of funding to abstinence-only education programs.

“Increased awareness and advocacy by the public and providers will be required to preserve these important benefits and programs,” Brindis and her co-authors write. “The ACA and other federally funded efforts have made vital gains for women’s access to high-quality preventive services and care, and it is critical for us all to mobilize to preserve these before they are lost.”  

The commentary, “The Risk of Remaining Silent: Addressing the Current Threats to Women’s Health,” has been published in the November/December issue of Women’s Health Issues.