For more than a year now, health officials have been trying to improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs, for women who want them. But there have been some pretty big hurdles, particularly at hospitals in Texas.
The root of the problem facing hospitals is mostly operational, Dr. Ted Held, an OBGYN with People’s Community Clinic, said.
“The billing mechanisms, the stocking mechanisms, the tracking of the devices – we have figured out on the outpatient side in clinics and at Planned Parenthood and at other family-planning sites," he said. "But the in-patient sites never figured out how to do this before, because they've never traditionally done it."
That’s why he and others have asked state lawmakers to take a stab at the problem. Texas Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said there are problems in particular for women who have just given birth and want long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs.
“This is what I have heard from practitioners,” she said. “This is what I’ve heard from some women’s health experts. And so we just want to figure out what are those barriers exactly, and how might we help facilitate easier access to this type of contraception.”
Hinojosa has introduced a bill that would direct the Department of State Health Services to create a plan to fix these problems. She said the issue of post-partum LARCs – in other words, an IUD for a woman who just gave birth – is an issue where there is bipartisan support.
“This is good, particularly for women for whom there is a fear they may not return for post-partum care or a post-partum doctor’s visit and be able to get that birth control within the doctor’s office,” Hinojosa said.
There is a lot of support for this idea in the community, too. Held said Dell Medical School and UT’s Population Research Center have expressed interest in getting this off the ground.
He said there are a lot of reasons why this has support across the political spectrum and across the health care community, adding that every dollar spent on contraception saves the state $9 in prenatal and maternity care.
“For the state, which funds over half of the births in Texas because half of the births in Texas are state or publicly funded births, it makes all sorts of sense to give women contraception that they want,” Held said.
What 30 percent of women want, he said, is a long-acting reversible contraceptive.
But in Texas, only about 10 percent of women currently use LARCs. Held said this means there’s a lot of work to do.