There is a lot at stake for reproductive health in 2016. In the spring the Supreme Court will hear two cases, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole and Zubik v. Burwell, the outcomes of which will either further limit or expand access to abortion and contraceptive care. And, this year’s presidential election will certainly boil down to two candidates who hold completely different positions on abortion and contraception.
In 2016 the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) will leverage our networks, resources, and expertise to help ensure that everyone can safely access quality reproductive health care. Here are some of the areas we’ll be focusing on in the coming months.
Engaging in advocacy that supports access to reproductive health care. This year we will ramp up our participation in several coalitions that are proactively promoting federal legislation that expands access to reproductive health care. In March we are launching a voter education campaign to ensure that everyone can make informed decisions in the ballot box. We’ll be focusing our efforts on gathering clear, unbiased information on the candidates’ positions on reproductive health and developing a state-by-state guide to ballot initiatives that could impact reproductive health care access.
Making our patient education materials and clinical tools even more accessible. We want everyone, everywhere to be able to access our patient education materials so that people can make informed health care decisions. This year we’ll be releasing Chinese versions of all our patient education materials and, with funding from the Lalor Foundation, we will translate our materials into Korean, Vietnamese, and Hindi. We are also revising our process for developing patient education materials so that we fully comply with the International Patient Decision Aide Standards. This means that everyone can be sure that the information on our educational materials is rigorously researched and that the language and layout has been field-tested with clinicians and patients. Stay tuned!
Strengthening and expanding our most successful programs. In the summer of 2015, we launched an evaluation of our Reproductive Health Care and Advocacy Fellowship, this month we will start an evaluation our Miscarriage Care Initiative, and this spring we’ll evaluate our Hands-on Reproductive Health Training Center. The goal of each evaluation is to document the impact of each initiative, zero in on its strengths, and identify areas that can be improved. We’ll use this information to guide our expansion plans. One of our goals in 2016 is to expand our Fellowship program. We currently have four fellows each year: three in New York and one in Massachusetts. Building on what we learn from the evaluation, we hope to expand the fellowship in more areas across the country. More information on that to come!
The Reproductive Health Access Project supports the reproductive health, rights, and justice work that our sister organizations do whenever we can, so that we can all move forward together in our allied mission to expand access to reproductive health care. One of the ways that we do this is by signing on to and participating in advocacy projects. This year, we look forward to participating in five major advocacy initiatives and coalitions. We will be updating you on the following five advocacy events in 2016, and hope that you will participate where you can.
1. EACH Woman Act
RHAP has been a member of the All* Above All coalition of 94 sister organizations working together to lift abortion restrictions and repeal the Hyde Amendment. On July 8, 2015, Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO), in addition to over seventy Congressional Co-Sponsors, introduced the EACH Woman Act. With this bill, when a woman gets her care or insurance through the federal government, she will be covered for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion. This will effectively restore abortion care coverage for women on Medicaid and Medicare. This bill also prevents federal, state, and local legislators from interfering with private insurance markets to block insurance companies from providing abortion coverage. Take action to support this bill with All* Above All.
2. Women’s Health Protection Act
Another coalition RHAP is involved in, Act for Women, has been working tirelessly to push the Women’s Health Protection Act through Congress. This federal bill would prohibit states from imposing restrictions on abortion that apply to no other medical care, interfere with a patient’s personal decision making, and block access to safe, legal abortion care. This act would protect women from the hundreds of TRAP laws that have been enacted in recent years. These laws place onerous, medically unnecessary restrictions on clinics providing abortion care and have resulted in women’s health care clinic closures across the country. Visit Act for Women to learn more.
3. Whole Women’s Health v. Cole
In what is expected to be a landmark case for the reproductive rights movement, the Supreme Court will be hearing the case Whole Women’s Health v. Cole. This case will determine whether the state of Texas can institute restrictions on women’s health clinics that are so onerous that nearly all abortion care providers in the state have to shut down. This historic case could overturn HB2 laws and would affect the hundreds of similar laws being passed in states across the country. This case has truly national implications for the health and rights of women. The arguments will be heard on March 2, 2016, and we look forward to hearing the judgement on this case in May. Visit the Center for Reproductive Rights to learn more.
4. Zubik v. Burwell
In 2016, the Supreme Court will hear Zubik v. Burwell, a case that comes on the heels of June 2014’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision. In Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that closely held for-profit corporations that object to birth control on religious grounds may refuse to cover contraception in employer-provided health plans. In reviewing Zubik, the Court will decide whether this religious objection rule would apply to all employers, including nonprofit organizations. As in Hobby Lobby, Zubik would upset the balance between supporting religious objection laws and ensuring that everyone has access to the health care and services they need. As part of the Coalition for Liberty and Justice, RHAP will be participating in Religious Freedom Day on January 2016 and following this case throughout the year.
5. Educate Yourself and Vote!
There is a lot more going on in 2016 than just the presidential election. Voters have an opportunity to support pro-choice legislators at the state and local levels as well. In some states there will also be reproductive rights ballot measures. In March 2016, RHAP will launch a new section on our website that will list resources to help voters educate themselves about their representatives’ stance on reproductive issues so that voters can make the best decisions in the primaries and the general election this fall.
RHAP looks forward to supporting our coalition partners as they drive the momentum of the EACH Woman Act, Women’s Health Protection Act, and Whole Women’s Health v. Cole in 2016. We hope you become advocates too! Join us in supporting these advocacy actions and vote in 2016!
2015 was an exciting year for the Reproductive Health Access Network! In the past twelve months, the Network grew from approximately 650 members across 35 states to 925 members in 41 states, Washington D.C., and Canada. To reflect the current reproductive health care landscape, in late 2014 we broadened the scope of the Network to include contraceptive and miscarriage care as well as abortion care, and expanded our membership beyond family physicians. As a result, other primary care providers such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and internists have brought their unique perspectives to the Network.
In the spring of 2015, pro-choice primary care physicians came together at Network meetings hosted to coincide with the annual conferences of the National Abortion Federation and the Society for Teachers of Family Medicine. In the fall, we partnered with the Midwest Access Project to host a Network gathering at Family Medicine Midwest, and brought together our Northeast Network members at the Family Medicine Education Consortium in Massachusetts. Our final gathering took place this November at the North American Forum on Family Planning, with 60 providers, medical students, and advocates in attendance.
Our regional Clusters are stronger than ever. In December of 2014, a new Cluster began meeting in Philadelphia, and this spring, members in Baltimore came together for the first time. Existing Clusters in Boston, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, and New York continued to meet, all engaging in various advocacy activities suited towards the needs of the Cluster members. For example, the Boston/Eastern Massachusetts Cluster advocated for a resolution supporting post-partum LARC coverage through MassHealth, and the New York City Cluster took on the CREATE curriculum. In 2016, we are partnering with TEACH and MAP to start Clusters on the West Coast and in Chicago; we are also working with local leaders in North Carolina, Maine, and Southwestern Ohio. If you are interested in joining a local Network Cluster, or even starting your own, please contact our Network Coordinator, Laura, at email@example.com.
2015 was a very difficult year for reproductive health care providers and advocates, both individually and legislatively. Despite these barriers, our community has demonstrated that we are committed to offering comprehensive reproductive health care services to patients across the country. We will continue to face challenges in this upcoming election year. In this environment, it is so important for us to have spaces for collaboration, advocacy, and peer support. The Network is shaped by its membership, and we invite you to contact us with any needs, concerns, and ideas you may have.
If you are a provider and would like to sign up for the Reproductive Health Access Network, please visit our Network page.
This past year, we have focused on expanding our research and evaluation efforts to improve our programs while simultaneously continuing to support several ongoing research projects that help contribute to our mission and work.
One of our longest, ongoing research projects has helped build our Reproductive Health Access Network. Every spring, we conduct a survey of graduating family medicine residents who attended programs that provide training in abortion care. We ask if they received training in several reproductive health services, such as IUD insertions and aspiration abortion, and whether they plan to provide this care. We also give them the opportunity to join our Reproductive Health Access Network where they can receive support from physicians in their area who are providing reproductive health care. While this annual survey was initially designed to help us identify and support future abortion providers, it has also provided us with interesting information on reproductive health training and perceived barriers to providing care. Early in 2015 we published the results of the first four years of the study in the journal Family Medicine.
Last year, we sent a survey to all the federally qualified health centers in New York State to learn about the reproductive health care they provide. We presented the results of the survey at the American Public Health Association Meeting in November and plan to write a paper about our findings.
This summer we focused on evaluating our Reproductive Health Care and Advocacy Fellowship program. We conducted in-depth interviews with all our former fellows in the hopes of learning how the fellowship prepared them to provide and teach reproductive health care. This January, we are launching an evaluation of our Miscarriage Care Initiative to assess the full impact of the training and support we offer our grantees. We want to better understand how integrating miscarriage care into their practices improves reproductive health care, overall, and how we can improve the program to meet the needs of future grantees. Lastly, this summer we will conduct an evaluation of our Hands-on Reproductive Health Training Center where we train primary care clinicians how to insert and remove IUDs and contraceptive implants.
Our research helps us understand the landscape of reproductive health in this country and our evaluation projects help us measure our impact and improve our programs. We look forward to sharing the results of these efforts with you soon!
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