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Rural Washington Takes Initiative To Improve Reproductive Health Access

Universal health access will not be achieved unless women are cared for in their own communities and are empowered to make decisions about their own health in a supportive environment. This will only be achieved by Community-based demand-side intervention for maternal and reproductive health access.

This and a few other challenges are currently being faced by the Washington Network for Reproductive Health, hence the need for increasing access to reproductive health services in rural communities.

The Washington State Sexual and Reproductive Health Network provides services, resources, and information to help individuals of all genders achieve optimal sexual and reproductive health, better evaluate unintended pregnancies, prevent unintended pregnancies, and understand their pregnancy/ Parenthood intention.

Prioritizing Reproductive Health Access

The network helps individuals determine their desired number of children, as well as the timing and spacing of pregnancy. It serves everyone who wants and needs sexual and reproductive health services.

The Washington Network for Sexual and  Reproductive Health has 16 Organizations; these Institutions operate 87 clinics that provide sexual and reproductive health services on a sliding scale. Washington State provides assistance so that low-income and uninsured or underinsured people can access these services.

Prioritizing Reproductive Health Access

Reproductive Health leaders discussed plans to improve access to care in Washington, especially in rural areas, at the 2023 Midwest Policy Reform Conference in Spokane.

In lieu of the challenges facing reproductive health in rural areas around Washington, Jac Davies Committee Liaison at the rural Collaborative said “We are witnessing workforce shortages, we are seeing more complex patients, we are seeing access issues across all areas, especially in rural communities where there are more challenges” 

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A growing number of rural hospitals are closing their labor and delivery units, this sometimes subjects pregnant families to travel distance away from their community before accessing care. While accounting for the negative impact of inadequate staffing, Teresa Bollinger, chief nursing officer said the hospital recently reopened its OB office after they were shut as a result of staffing challenges.

Planned Parenthood relies heavily on the plan to protect people’s access to reproductive care, Simon said, this is not only limited, it should be across the board, employees also need reproductive protections, which could help Washington lawmakers pass a “clip bill” in this session.

He further said “We are able to protect our providers, that is really important. We have people in our health centers who live in Idaho and work in Washington. So in order to convince providers that their work is safe in Washington, even if they are sitting in their own office in Idaho, Washington has made that a priority.

Another vital challenge facing reproductive health in Washington around rural communities is that access to family planning services became more difficult after the US Supreme Court in 2021 decided to strike down the federal constitutional right to abortion.

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“As Planned Parenthood has been targeted across the United States, many health centers have closed across many locations’ ‘ said Simon Clover. President of Human Resources for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Idaho.

This reduces many people’s ability to access reproductive care, especially birth control if they are trying to manage their fertility.

Sexual and Reproductive health is an important part of healthcare services that must be taken seriously, when people have the ability to control their own reproductive health, their life options increase. Their opportunity to enter or stay in school increases along with opportunities for employment and social and Political participation.

Sexual and reproductive health services are important for people of all genders and are especially important for teens. More importantly, sexual and reproductive health services increase equity and decrease health disparity.

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