LANSING — At a hearing today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and dozens of supporters of informed reproductive healthcare urged House Judiciary Committee members to support a 15-bill Prevention First package (HB 5155-5165 HR 118 -120, HCR 23). The package of bills was introduced in the State House and Senate in June 2009.
“We are optimistic that the Michigan legislature will finally address real-life issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and emergency contraception through real-life solutions,” said Sarah Scranton, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. “It’s important for our elected officials to set aside politics so that we may ensure that every woman and man in Michigan has the resources and tools to make educated choices about their health and family.”
The package of bills, if adopted, would promote policies that support informed and responsible health care decisions regarding family planning while addressing the need to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. In addition, the package addresses numerous family planning issues, including:
- Giving women affordable access to birth control
- Promoting honest, medically accurate, abstinence-plus sex education
- Guaranteeing that women who survive rape or sexual assault are offered information about, and access to, emergency contraception
- Ensuring insurance coverage for birth control
- Expanding family-planning services
- Ensuring that pharmacists fill birth-control prescriptions
- Supporting teen-pregnancy prevention efforts
“The prevention programs outlined in this legislation are proven methods to prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions,” said Shelli Weisberg, ACLU of Michigan Legislative Director. “We cannot let another year go by without instituting such commonsense approaches to reproductive healthcare. In addition such initiatives are not uncommon across the nation – Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin enacted similar measures in 2008 alone.”
During the hearing, many supporters of the legislation testified including the Michigan State Medical Society, Planned Parenthood teen peer sex educators, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Michigan Association of School Boards and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
“It is clear to any health care professional how important this legislation is to women and their families in Michigan. After all, contraception is basic health care, used by 95% of women at some point in their lifetimes,” said Dr. Cheryl Gibson-Fountain who testified at the hearing. “Compounded with the grim statistics that half of all pregnancies are unintended, and one in four teen girls has a sexually transmitted disease, the legislature must act fast to ensure that the barriers to medically accurate family planning are lifted.”
In addition, studies show that the vast majority of Americans support such prevention policies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 86 percent of Americans support access to birth control, and 86 percent of Americans support public funding for low income women’s birth control and preventative health screening. These bills not only address basic health care issues, but they can potentially save the state millions of dollars at a time when the state’s economy is fragile. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on family planning services in Michigan, more than six dollars is saved on social services in the first year alone.