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Cuts to Women’s Health Services Keep Women in Poverty – and Reinforce Ohio’s High Infant Mortality Rate

It’s simple – women who can control whether and when they get pregnant are more likely to raise their standard of living than women who can’t.

Think about it – getting pregnant and having a new child, when it’s not the right time, often slows a woman’s effort to complete job training or advance in the workforce. Preventing unplanned pregnancies is an essential strategy for helping women advance out of poverty.

To control when you get pregnant, women of childbearing age (and men) need access to Family Planning Services. But Ohio’s proposed budget eliminates access to family planning services for women and men with incomes between 139-200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), thus undermining women’s ability to advance out of poverty. Whatever the intent, the impact of reducing access to family planning services is to hold women back.

Likewise, maintaining adequate space between pregnancies, to give the mother’s body adequate time to recover from the last pregnancy, lowers the risk of infant mortality and poor birth outcomes. “Safe spacing” of pregnancies is on experts’ short list of strategies to reduce infant mortality. For Ohio – ranked 47th (near worst) in infant mortality – restricting access to family planning services is not the way to reduce its shameful infant mortality rate.

Similarly, it’s well documented that access to prenatal care improves healthy birth outcomes and reduces infant mortality. Prenatal care improves birth weight, preventing premature births, which lead both to infant deaths and children with disabilities. And having a child with disabilities can also jeopardize women’s advancement in the workforce. But the budget proposes to eliminate prenatal care for women 139-200% FPL. The rationale for eliminating this coverage – that people are required to have health coverage and can get it through the Federal Marketplace – is far from universally true, as has been explained to the administration and lawmakers repeatedly by us and others.  

As we’ve written before, not everyone between 139-200% FPL can get affordable coverage through the Marketplace. And people can only buy coverage, with limited exceptions, during the short Open Enrollment Period. But the bottom line is that it’s good public policy to ensure access to prenatal care and family planning services at all times.

 

If lawmakers were truly committed to reducing infant mortality, helping Ohio families lift themselves out of poverty, lessening their reliance on public programs, and increasing their self-sufficiency, they would restore these relatively inexpensive services during this budget process.  

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