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Population Institute: United States Earns 'D+' in Reproductive Rights and Health

January 14, 2016 — The United States in 2015 earned a "D+" on reproductive rights and health, according the Population Institute's latest report card, the Mid-Valley Statesman Journal reports (Yoo, Mid-Valley Statesman Journal, 1/12).

Report Details

For the report, the Population Institute gave each state and Washington, D.C., an individual grade based on nine criteria. Specifically, the states were ranked based on effectiveness, which included criteria on the teenage pregnancy rate and overall rate of unintended pregnancy; prevention, which included criteria on whether comprehensive sexuality education was required and the accessibility of emergency contraception; affordability, which included criteria on whether the state intended to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and the eligibility rules for families in the state's Medicaid program; and access to abortion clinics, which included criteria on abortion restrictions, the targeted regulation of abortion providers and the percentage of women living in a county that does not have an abortion provider.

The Population Institute assigned each state a core grade of "A," "B," "C," "D," or "F" based on these criteria. States also received an additional "+" or "-" based on additional factors, such as pending legislation.

Key Findings

According to the report card, the overall U.S. score on reproductive rights and health decreased from a "C" to a "D+."

Seventeen states received a score of "B-" or higher (Population Institute release, 1/7). Meanwhile, 19 states received an "F" (Mid-Valley Statesman Journal, 1/12). Failing states included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute, said the misleading videos released last year targeting Planned Parenthood spurred an influx of antiabortion-rights legislation at the federal and state level. In addition, according to the Population Institute, the recentattacks on abortion clinics "are creating a climate of fear."

Walker added, "Increasingly, the reproductive health of a woman depends on the state or community where she lives." According to Walker, 21 states have decided not to expand Medicaid under the ACA and a number of states have curbed family planning funding. Further, states have approved 288 new abortion restrictions since January 2011 and enforce widely varying sexuality education requirements.

Oregon, Three Other States Earn 'A'

Overall, only four states -- California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington -- received an "A" (Population Institute release, 1/7). According to the Journal, Oregon earned an "A+" for requiring public schools to teach comprehensive sexuality education and emergency rooms to provide EC, expanding Medicaid, and not passing laws that restrict women's access to abortion. Further, the state received a "+" for enacting legislation that allows women to receive a year's worth of contraception at one time and permits pharmacies to prescribe and dispense contraception.

Mary Nolan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, said the state "is heading in the right direction." She continued, "There are legislative leaders [who] recognize improving access and quality of reproductive health services results in individual people having better health and better public health results. In other states ... extremist politicians ... are not paying attention to medical science and medical research."

However, Nolan said Oregon could still work to improve access to abortion care. According to the report card, 20% of women in Oregon live in a county that does not have an abortion provider (Mid-Valley Statesman Journal, 1/12).