Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Happy and sad at the same time. . .
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — About 75,000 poor and moderate-income women in Louisiana will be eligible for yearly doctors’ visits, Pap smears, contraceptives and other services under a new program aimed at reducing unwanted pregnancies, state health authorities say.
Louisiana is the 18th state that has received approval from the federal government to expand the availability of family planning services to women who otherwise do not qualify for Medicaid benefits.
Women from 19 to 44 and whose incomes are below 200 percent of the federal poverty line will be eligible for free annual gynecological exams, lab tests, birth-control pills and other forms of contraception.
Under some circumstances the program will also cover tubal ligations, Health and Hospitals Secretary Fred Cerise said Monday. He said the program will cost the state less money to provide free contraceptives than to pay the costs and cover potential complications associated with unwanted pregnancies.
State figures show 55 percent of all pregnancies in Louisiana are unintended.
The five-year program is being financed with money that the state currently sends to parish health units for family planning services. For every dollar the state puts up, the federal government will put up a $9 match.
The state expects to begin taking applications in November, Cerise said.
On the one hand -- yay! More women getting access to reproductive health care! Given our extraordinary poverty level, it won't take long for all those federal dollars to be spent. Gods know there will be plenty of women who meet the financial criteria. So, on that count, good for us.
On the other hand -- 55 percent of all pregnancies are unintended. More than half. Let that sink in for a moment. More than half of the pregnancies in this state are unintended. Maybe not unwanted, but not planned. Let's say that a good chunk of those babies are like my brother -- happy surprises. My parents intended to put three to four years between thier children, but when Mom went in for a check up when I was 9 months old, she got a little surprise. Happens to lots of people, so...let's just say that oh, 20-25 percent of those unintended pregnancies happen to married and/or committed couples who are pleased with the news.
That still leaves 20-25 percent of them going to women/couples who are not happy. Who don't want them. With the difficulty obtaining abortion in this state (waiting periods, clinics clustered at the very south and very north ends of the state, costs, transportation problems, etc.) lots of those babies are going to be born. Some will be given up for adoption, but not that many. So....unwanted babies born into families that, likely -- given that our poverty rate was insane before two hurricanes smashed our economy to bits -- cannot afford to provide for them. So, say, one in four children in Louisiana. That's just....it makes me want to cry.
It also makes me want to shake people. It's good that more women are going to have access to reproductive health care. It's wonderful. But what about those women who miss the critera because they make $100 too much a year? Or those who don't hear about the program? Or those do, but can't get the time off their low-wage jobs to take advantage of it?
I realize there are no prefect solutions (well, you know, maybe universal healthcare, but...)and this is good news, overall. But still...one in four children born unwanted? That's way too many. (And that's just my taking guesses at the numbers. From what I've seen, it's probably more than that.)