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State Takes Steps to Expand Access to Birth Control

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As the movement to limit contraception coverage builds momentum nationally, New York State has taken action to expand access to birth control. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Shanique Santana had her son A.J. 17 months ago. She opted to get an intrauterine device, or IUD, implanted in her uterus shortly after his birth.

"I myself am only 11 months apart from my older sister, and then I have a younger brother that follows right behind me, and so it was always a strain financially for my mom," Santana says. "I definitely wanted to prevent that from happening to myself so I can enjoy my son."

Santana had to return to her provider after her son's birth to get the IUD, because at the time, Medicaid didn't reimburse the cost of the device if it was provided immediately after childbirth.

"It would've been nice to do it then and save the trip, because you're very exhausted afterwards, and it's like, you don't want to go anywhere and do much of anything," she says.

The state and city Departments of Health are looking to take away that inconvenience and help prevent the health and financial risks associated with rapid repeat pregnancies.

On April 1, a new Medicaid policy went into effect providing reimbursements for IUDs or contraceptive implants provided immediately after childbirth or after an abortion.

"When we remove structural and financial barriers to contraceptive access, women have more options to make informed decisions," says Dr. Mary Bassett, the city's health commissioner.

There were more than 194,000 pregnancies in the city in 2012. Nearly three out of every five pregnancies were unplanned.

Bassett says currently, contraceptives are less likely to be used by young and poor women.

"If we make things more convenient, I'm confident that we'll see more young women who will use this who are black, Latino and poor," Bassett says.

The policy change comes at a contentious time. Just last month, the Supreme Court ruled that certain private companies can invoke religious objections to providing contraception in their workers' health plans. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called the expanded coverage "anti-child" and "socially disturbing".

"We are here to expand the care and expand the patient choices," said Dr. Ram Raju, president of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation.

New York's health officials are hoping that other insurance companies follow Medicaid's lead.

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