Planned Parenthood has teamed up with the Univ. of Utah to provide free birth control access for Utah women.
The HER Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative will work with three participating health centers in the Salt Lake area to provide contraceptive education and access for women. The HER initiative began in 2015 as a contraceptive counseling and education program ― and in March of 2016, the initiative was changed to not only counsel and educate women about their options, but to provide contraception free of charge.
HER Salt Lake has set a goal of providing birth control to 7,000 women in the state ― according to the Daily Utah Chronicle, the initiative has thus far provided contraception for 3,000 women.
“We know that birth control is not one-size-fits-all and that people may need to switch methods to find the best birth control for themselves,” HER representative Kyl Myers told the Chronicle. “So HER Salt Lake helps participating patients continue or switch methods, for free, for up to three years.”
Women can access their free contraception through HER until March 2017.
The program is funded by both Univ. of Utah and Planned Parenthood, and has partnered with other research funds and foundations, like ANSIRH and Society of Family Planning.
A partnership between Planned Parenthood and a public, Utah-based university may seem surprising considering Utah legislators’ hostility toward Planned Parenthood and reproductive health care access ― in September 2015, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz was one of the most outspoken members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the testimony of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. The testimony came about after heavily edited videos, produced by the anti-abortion rights group Center for Medical Progress, went viral that summer.
On top of Planned Parenthood animosity, Utah lawmakers have attempted on more than one occasion to make it more difficult to access abortion. In March of 2016, Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert signed legislation requiring all women who have an abortion after 20 weeks to receive anesthesia. And just last month, two Republican state representatives announced that they are trying to pass a law that will force doctors to tell patients that the “abortion pill” (a medical abortion) is reversible.
Similar anti-abortion legislations should take note of the HER initiative ― after all, research shows that access to contraception significantly lowers the rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortion.
According to FiveThirtyEight, abortion rates in many states have fallen over the years ― arguably thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate that makes birth control more accessible for women. And, in Colorado, where free IUDs were provided over a six-year period, the teen pregnancy rate lowered significantly. The New York Times called Colorado’s effort a “startling success.”
Read more about (or donate to) to the HER initiative here.
CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to more accurately describe the nature of the funds and foundations Univ. of Utah has partnered with.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that anti-abortion group Live Action released heavily edited Planned Parenthood videos in 2015. Live Action released Planned Parenthood videos in 2012; the Center for Medical Progress released the 2015 videos.