Introducing the Contraceptive Equity Initiative


Introducing the Contraceptive Equity Initiative

March 2, 2022
An image of a plant sprouting out of the pages of a book.

Power to Decide has always lived at the happy confluence of research, policy, and access. These three foundational pursuits are also at the very heart of the organization’s new Contraceptive Equity Initiative (CEI). Through CEI we are expanding access to birth control and reducing the barriers faced by too many in their quest for reproductive well-being. 

The Contraceptive Equity Initiative honors three pioneers in the field of reproductive health, each with a deep commitment to the mission of Power to Decide: Belle Sawhill (founding Board President), Sarah Brown (founding CEO), and the late Andrea Kane (policy guru extraordinaire).

This trio had a lot in common including a rock-solid commitment to evidence-based policy solutions, a willingness to push past conventional wisdom in search of innovative solutions, and an ability to pitch a big tent and navigate all opinions and beliefs for the benefit of people across the country. We will seek to embody all these attributes in the CEI. 

Why this new initiative? After all, since our founding in 1996, the nation has made historic gains on a number of fronts. Consider:  

  • Rates of teen pregnancy plummeted 74% between 1990 and 2017 and there have been impressive drops in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups. 
  • rates of unintended pregnancy more generally have also declined. 
  • State governments have begun making moves to codify permanent access to abortion care.
  • Conversations about birth control are now regularly seen by tens of millions on the big and small screens; all helping to normalize contraceptive use, abortion care, and what health equity looks like. 

That’s the good news. There is, however, plenty of not-so-good news including the grim reality that more than 19 million women of reproductive age in the US living in contraceptive deserts—counties that lack reasonable access to a health center offering the full range of contraceptive methods. Progress is not a synonym for victory. 

The CEI aims to address birth control access barriers by expanding research efforts to inform and further describe the nature of these barriers and define the preferences of people and communities regarding contraceptive access. The Initiative is composed of three core aspects, each of which is informed by what we’ve learned over the past 25 years. 

Expand Research Efforts Related to Contraceptive Access

We want to better understand the current practices and barriers to clinics offering the full range of methods (focusing on contraceptive deserts). We plan to apply what we learn to design assistance and training programs for clinical partners, advance policy change, and increase contraceptive access for those most in need.

Power to Decide has always believed that having a very strong research base for whatever we do is extremely important. This area of reproductive health understandably has a lot of political passion, personal stories, and emotion associated with it. We believe that we can only make a difference if what we do is firmly anchored in facts and anchored in experience. 

Bolster Policy Efforts to Support Contraceptive Access

We want improve implementation of the ACA’s contraceptive coverage provision and to expand no co-pay contraceptive coverage to additional populations. Specifically, we’ll focus on informing legislation that expands pharmacist prescribing and extended supply coverage of contraception and goes beyond the ACA’s contraceptive coverage provision. We’ll also expand our state telehealth tool, which provides information on telehealth policies for contraception in all 50 states.

Modern contraception has been a true game-changer for individuals and society. To increase contraceptive use we must increase contraceptive access. In addition to personal interactions and encouraging conversations between family, friends, and acquaintances, we need a system that welcomes everyone in and allows everyone to get the best method for them without needing three separate visits, a referral, a 20-mile trek, or any other barrier. Creating that system often requires assistance on a national and state-by-state level, and we are committed to continuing and expanding our efforts to provide necessary education and support. 

Convene a Shared Learning Collaborative of Regional and State-Based Contraceptive Access Projects

Currently there are multiple state and regional projects taking place around the country to expand access to contraceptive options locally.

We’ll seek to use our broad experience with the Shared Learning Collaborative model to serve as the convener, facilitator, and catalyst for a learning collaborative among interested place-based projects. This will support research, share findings and best practices across organizations, reduce inefficiencies, and measure impact across regions and initiatives. 

We have always prioritized bringing people together; often purposely choosing to meet with people who did not agree with one another. We’ve never wanted to sit at a table with others just to say that we’ve talked. When we sit at a table we seek to humbly listen, learn, and share. We have always believed in the power of collective learning and sharing what we know. 

Onward, with thanks and a hat tip to Belle, Sarah, and Andrea. Inspirations all.