Ensuring Real Access for Women of Color Under the ACA

Late last month, the Supreme Court decided (6-3 vote) again that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay and protected health care coverage for millions of Americans. The Black Women’s health Imperative, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Planned Parenthood Federtion of America celebrated the decision on social media using #AfterKvB and spread the word that birth control coverage remains in place for all women.

According to Dr. Nerys Benfield, MD, MPH (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), improved awareness about health insurance coverage of contraception remains important for women of color and Black women. In a phone interview, Dr. Benfield said “There are people who don’t know they are eligible for Medicaid, or that family planning coverage is available, or what their contraceptive options are. Some people have no source of legitimate information. There is a need to focus on disseminating information in the community.”

When it comes to contraception – and the last chance to prevent an unintended pregnancy through emergency contraception – the stakes are high, and the time for action is always now. Black women are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy and are more likely to have a higher body mass, a risk factor for emergency contraception failure.

Dr. Benfield continues, “The ACA has had a dramatic impact on access to a variety of methods which is important because women need access to  high-quality, anticipatory contraception.  We know there are disparities in contraceptive use and we are able to see that access to more effective methods has been a bit more equal now that cost is no longer a barrier for the newly and better insured.”

Still, women need information to capitalize on what the ACA has to offer. That’s where efforts like the new National Coalition for Sexual Health come in. The Coalition consists of over 50 leading health and medical organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the Center of Excellence for Sexual Health at Morehouse School of Medicine, and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, and medical practitioners like Dr. Benfield. Through their efforts, they seek to utilize the opportunity afforded by the ACA to do community-based outreach to share information about reproductive health and the prevention of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections, as well as information about how to access care.

Echoing-Ida-logo-smlBlack women-led initiatives like the Echoing Ida writing collective – which centers and amplifies Black women’s voices on reproductive health and social justice – are important vehicles for raising awareness about issues affecting Black women. Echoing Ida writers have shared information on EC access and efficacy to empower Black women with information.

The Black Women’s Health Imperative launched the My Sister’s Keeper initiative on campuses of historically-Black colleges and universities to empower young Black women to educate their peers about reproductive and sexual health, raise awareness in their communities, and advocate for helpful policies.

Beyond protecting and expanding no-cost coverage of contraception, stakeholders must support efforts that empower women to raise awareness about reproductive and sexual health, family planning, and health insurance coverage of preventive services including contraception. These efforts keep women at the center and help them achieve their optimal health.