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Court Decision Could Mean Increase In Demand For Free Birth Control At Clinics

Reported by: Send eMail Kera Mashek
Videographer: Shelby Spradling
Reported: Jun. 30, 2014 10:17 PM EDT
Updated: Jul. 1, 2014 8:50 AM EDT
Eyewitness News Photo
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

There are some estimates that up to 150,000 women in West Virginia could be affected by the high court's decision Monday that essentially allows some businesses to opt out of a requirement to provide health care coverage for birth control.

But there are places in the Mountain State that women can turn for help if they cannot afford contraceptives.

There is a network of about 80 clinics here in West Virginia that participate in the state's family planning program. One of them here in Charleston said the court's decision could have more impact than you think.

"The Women's Health Center has for a long time, and will continue to offer reproductive health services and birth control on a sliding fee scale. It's free to some patients and a very low cost to others," said Sharon Lewis, executive director with the Women's Health Center Of West Virginia.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday could mean clinics such as the Women's Health Center see more patients looking to take advantage of those family planning services. That will all hinge on how many employers decide to stop covering contraceptives on their health insurance plans.

"It's absolutely medically necessary that women have resources available to them to control the timing and number of pregnancies," Lewis said.

Beyond family planning, studies have shown there are a handful of other medical reasons women need access to birth control.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates about 14 percent of birth control users use it solely for non-contraceptive purposes, such as treating ovarian or endometrial cancer, ovarian cysts and endometriosis. Other uses include treatment of common concerns such as heavy or painful menstruation, and even acne.

Clinics also said a lot of those issues and other female health concerns are often detected during exams when a woman comes in to get birth control, and that those are appointments they might not even make if they know their insurance plan doesn't cover contraceptives.

"We have to have access to reproductive health care because they might have infections that need to be treated. They might have breast lumps or other things that need to be diagnosed and treated," Lewis said.

For the most part, you can only qualify for the state's family planning program if you meet certain income guidelines. To find a list of clinics offering those services, and to find out if you qualify, you can contact the state's office of family planning toll-free at 800-642-8522. There's also more information online by clicking here.



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