LANSING – Legislation unveiled by the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus at a press conference today would help women take charge of their reproductive health and aims to reduce Michigan’s unintended pregnancy rate, which is as high as 80 percent among young woman ages 15-19.
“Family planning is a cornerstone of women’s health, which is why it is so critically important that we give women the tools they need to control their fertility,” said Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), chairwoman of the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus. “This package of legislation includes measures that would make it easier for women to access the contraceptives they need, prohibit the discrimination against women on the basis of contraceptive use and call on the state to take steps to reduce Michigan’s high rate of teen pregnancies. I am hopeful the Legislature will work together to pass these critically important proposals.”
In Michigan, a cutback in funding for family planning has correlated to an increase in unintended pregnancies, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Between fiscal years 2001 and 2012, funding for pregnancy prevention in Michigan has fallen 91.6 percent. At the same time, the percentage of pregnancies that are unintended has increased from 72.4 percent to 82.1 percent for women ages 15-19, and has increased from 44 percent to 51 percent for women ages 15-44. Meanwhile, in Colorado – where funding for pregnancy prevention has increased – the teen pregnancy rate has fallen by 40 percent.
“Evidence shows that free and reduced cost access to contraception decreases unintended pregnancy and birth rates,” Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Meridian Township) said. “Providing adequate reproductive health care protections and resources enables women and men to plan their families and improves the economic stability of our state.”
Legislation proposed by the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus would:
- Prohibit employers from discriminating against women on the basis of their contraceptive use
- Require employers to inform employees and job applicants of reproductive health care coverage
- Require the state to develop and distribute information about emergency contraception
- Require health facilities that treat women following a sexual assault to make emergency contraceptives available to them
- Resolve the state to take steps intended to lower the rate of teen pregnancies
“Reproductive health coverage is essential to the decision making process that any woman or man goes through when searching for a job,” said Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline). “We have the right to know if this basic coverage is provided before accepting a job, and if there are any changes to it while employed.”