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Educate Congress Fact Sheet

The Educate Congress campaign to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to all members of Congress is based on the premise that policies and legislation related to women’s reproductive health must reflect the best available scientific evidence.

How Congress can advance evidence-based reproductive health policy:

Preserve access to coverage for reproductive health care:

Health care reform mandates that health insurance companies cover, with no co-pays or deductibles, contraception, well-woman visits, breastfeeding equipment and support, and screenings and counseling for sexually transmitted infections and intimate partner violence.

What we know: Research has demonstrated the value of considering contraception a form of preventive care. When women have access to effective free or low-cost birth control (without co-pay or deductible), the rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions drop. Earlier this year, the proposed Blunt Amendment aimed to allow employers and health insurance companies the right to deny coverage for contraceptives and other medical services for any religious or moral objection.

Research has demonstrated both the life-saving and cost-saving benefits of routine cervical cancer screening (Pap tests), yet some state legislatures resisted funding such screening for low-income women for many years. Federal health care reform finally recognized the value of cervical cancer screening by including it as one of several preventive health services that will now be covered by all insurers.

Improve maternity care:

Congress should be more proactive in ensuring that all women and newborns receive high-quality, evidence-based maternity care, especially because this type of care is often provided at a lower cost, and maternity care is a major factor in rising health care costs. Medicaid covers about 42 percent of the nation’s births.

What we know: Childbirth Connection’s consensus reports, including “2020 Vision for a High-Quality, High-Value Maternity Care System” and “Blueprint for Action,” identify the maternity care system that childbearing families need and explain how to attain such a system. A bill before Congress -- developed collaboratively with Childbirth Connection, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Congressional offices -- reflects the Woman-and Family-Centered Maternity Care Home model, strengthens maternity care performance measurements, and supports quality collaboratives in improving maternity care.

Reduce maternal mortality:

Congress can call for better reporting of maternal deaths, so that we will have a greater understanding of why so many women lose their lives.  Globally, the United States can scale up efforts to improve maternal health through foreign assistance programs.

What we know: Hundreds of thousands of women continue to die in childbirth around the world, yet 90 percent of those deaths are preventable. The United States, where more money is spent per capita on health care than anywhere else in the world, is ranked 50th in terms of maternal mortality, and 50 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. Proposed legislation would require more comprehensive and standardized reporting across the states and deserves the support of Congress. For women worldwide, basic, cost-effective interventions -- such as community-based health care providers and trained midwives, access to basic commodities, and better transport to facilities -- can dramatically improve outcomes.

Require better regulation of fertility clinics, especially with respect to drug safety:

Although a voluntary national registry tracks individuals involved in assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, participation on the part of fertility centers remains low. Congress should require participation in such a registry so vital information about potential long-term drug risks can be gathered. Both young women considering donating their eggs as well as women undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization) themselves need better information to make informed choices.

What we know: One drug commonly used to suppress ovarian function before multiple egg extraction, Lupron (leuprolide acetate), has not been approved by the FDA for this use. There are many anecdotal reports of harm to women, but without requiring long-term monitoring, there is no way to track these reports systematically. There is also important emerging data about the health of babies and children born as a result of ART procedures. This data needs to be tracked better as well.

Support FDA’s efforts to strengthen the evidence basis for approval of medical devices: Currently, requirements to demonstrate safety are not adequate. 

What we know: The FDA has told manufacturers of some vaginal mesh devices that they must conduct clinical trials to ensure that the benefits of the mesh outweigh the risks.  Such trials should be required for all surgical mesh. On the other hand, the FDA has allowed a company to continue to sell breast implants despite that company’s failure to appropriately conduct required post-market studies. In these kinds of situations, Congress should urge the FDA to require that clinical trials ensure patient safety, and should align itself with women’s health, not corporate complaints.

Use accurate language to describe rape:

Some members of Congress have suggested there is or should be a distinction between “rape” and something called “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape.”

What we know: Current law defines rape to acknowledge that there are different types of threats, not all of which involve a deadly weapon. Some Congressional proposals undermine current law, doing women a great disservice, especially when key support services and access to the full range of reproductive health care options would be unavailable based on such false distinctions. 

Eliminate restrictions that impede women’s access to safe abortion services: Congress should consider proposals that will reduce these restrictions.

What we know: Much of existing law severely restricts women’s access to safe abortion services and has seriously compromised the reproductive health of women in this country. The Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions means that women who can least afford abortions are denied them.




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