In the 100 days since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was decided, the abortion bans that have gone into effect in more than a dozen states have resulted in nearly 30 million women of reproductive age now living in a state where abortion services are banned. In response, the federal government has continued its efforts to find ways to respond to the situation.
On October 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office of Population Affairs, issued over $6 million in grants for reproductive health and research. The funding is intended to improve healthcare service delivery, promote adoption of healthy behaviors, and reduce existing health disparities that doctors, lawmakers, and White House officials have identified following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. This is among many actions taken by HHS to ensure reproductive health services for those 30 million women who cannot access abortion care or have limited access to contraception. It also considers the doctors and nurses who face criminal penalties if they provide abortions.
These actions include grants for Title X Family Planning Research, Research-to-Practice Centers, and Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Evaluation and Research to conduct analyses that will generate information to protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare. Title X Family Planning Research grants will conduct analyses to generate information that will improve the delivery of family planning services while also expanding equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services offered under Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Geared towards adolescents, the Research-to-Practice Center grants will synthesize and translate existing research to improve adolescent health with the goal of reducing teen pregnancy. Similarly, the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Research projects will explore new questions in teen pregnancy prevention, along with those in adolescent sexual and reproductive health, to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of these programs while also reducing existing disparities. Concisely stated, the goal for these research and analyses grants is to generate information that will:
- Identify factors that will improve the quality, access, and equity of teen pregnancy prevention programs for adolescents or young adults, or will reduce existing disparities;
- Identify and/or validate core program components or “active ingredients” that are essential for teen pregnancy prevention programs and practices to produce the desired outcomes; and
- Conduct testing of emerging adolescent sexual health innovations to generate early data and prepare for future rigorous impact evaluation.
Similar actions taken by HHS have been seen through the guidance issued to hospitals and physicians reminding them of their continued obligations under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), along with guidance issued to clarify protections of birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires most private health plans to provide birth control and family planning counseling at no addition charge. Additionally, HHS issued letters to U.S. governors inviting them to apply for Medicaid 1115 waivers to allow women from states where reproductive rights have been restricted to access care. Lastly, HHS issued a proposed rule strengthening regulations interpreting provisions of the ACA reinforcing that discrimination on the basis of sex includes pregnancy and related conditions.
In the end, these grants seek to provide valuable insight to help communities provide essential, client-centered reproductive healthcare services throughout the country and also expand equitable healthcare by reducing existing disparities.