Dr. Melissa Gilliam Featured in AP News Story on Contraception Access

AP Photo

Section Chief Dr. Melissa Gilliam was featured and quoted in an Associated Press news story regarding Illinois’ recent effort to ensure comprehensive and continuous birth control coverage for those with Medicaid.

The story, which has been picked up by outlets nationwide including CBS News, discusses a plan from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration to improve access to family planning services for individuals with Medicaid, including long-acting birth control methods, by increasing reimbursement and education. The plan was announced at last month’s Illinois Contraceptive Equity Summit, an event hosted by the Section and EverThrive Illinois. The public is invited to comment on the plan until September 15.

According to the article, the current Illinois Medicaid payment system creates a financial barrier to doctors for offering LARC methods. For example, IUDs cost doctors’ offices between $300 and $800 each to keep in stock. Clinics pay the upfront cost of an IUD and absorb the loss of denied or delayed Medicaid claims. By implementing the Illinois Family Planning Action Plan,  the state would double doctors’ reimbursement rates for inserting IUDs and performing vasectomies, thus alleviating the cost for both patient and provider.

Dr. Gilliam commented on access to contraceptive methods within Medicaid, saying that “for some providers, [the state’s plan] will make a very big difference and will be a very welcome change.”

Photo: M. Spencer Green, AP

Illinois Family Planning Action Plan announced at Summit

Yesterday, The Section and EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) hosted a successful Illinois Contraceptive Equity Summit at UChicago’s downtown Gleacher Center.

summitAt the Summit, Director Julie Hamos of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (pictured), delivered a keynote address during which she announced the launch of the Illinois Family Planning Action Plan. The goal of this plan is to increase access to family planning services for women and men in the Medicaid Program by providing comprehensive and continuous coverage to ensure that every woman can fulfill her childbearing desires.

The Summit also featured an expert panel of speakers who discussed issues affecting access to family planning health services, as well as concrete action steps to ensure that all women can make sexual and reproductive health decisions free from coercion and discrimination. Topics included Medicaid coordinated care, updated Title X guidelines, the impact of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, and patient experiences as the ACA has been implemented.

Speakers included Kai Tao, Senior Policy Advisor at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services; Brigid Leahy, Director of Government Relations at Planned Parenthood of Illinois; Lorie Chaiten, Director of the Reproductive Rights Project for the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the ACLU of Illinois; and Dr. Sadia Haider, Family Planning Medical Director for the Office of Women’s Health at the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Section Chief Dr. Melissa Gilliam welcomed the participants and discussed the importance of affordable, quality contraceptive care that recognizes women’s individual needs. Janine Lewis of EverThrive Illinois delivered closing remarks and summarized action items going forward, including the need to assist women and their families in gaining insurance coverage and the opportunity to comment on the Illinois Family Planning Action Plan.

The Summit was attended by a range of key stakeholders, including health care providers, clinic administrators, social service providers, health advocates, and government program staff. Stay tuned for additional materials and video footage from the Summit, and read the Chicago Tribune’s coverage of the event.

The Illinois Contraceptive Equity Summit was made possible thanks to generous support from Emlyn Eisenach and The Irving Harris Foundation.

Photo by Ashley Heher.


Abortion & Reproductive Health Care for Incarcerated Women

orange-is-the-new-black-01Orange is the New Black returned for a second season to Netflix last Friday and continued a major plot line involving a pregnant inmate and the father of her baby, who happens to be a guard in the prison. What started as a secret romance escalated quickly due to the difficulties pregnant women face while behind bars. Legally speaking, a sexual relationship between an inmate and prison official can never be considered consensual and so the characters hatched a series of plans about how to deal with the pregnancy. Could she secretly terminate the pregnancy without anyone finding out? Could she continue the pregnancy and receive adequate health care? Could she hide the pregnancy and the true father? What happens when she goes into labor? What punishment(s) will the couple endure for their actions?

While the TV show mixes fact and fiction, it does honestly depict the reality of what happens when a woman becomes pregnant in prison or enters prison already pregnant. In addition to this ongoing pregnancy plot line, in the first season an inmate entered prison pregnant, went into labor and delivered in a hospital, and was separated from her baby shortly afterwards and returned to prison. Between six and 10 percent of women are already pregnant when admitted to a prison or jail and they can become pregnant during private visits with partners, home visits, while in work release programs, or as a result of sexual assault [ACOG]. Studies also show that approximately 14 percent of girls are pregnant when they arrive to juvenile detention.

In recognition of the prevalence of these realities, the Section published a policy brief on Abortion & Reproductive Health Care for Incarcerated Women. Although our brief focuses on Illinois policies and programs, incarcerated women in state and federal facilities across the United States face myriad barriers to receiving reproductive heath care, including abortion services. Despite having the constitutional right to have an abortion (as guaranteed under Roe v Wade), accessing the procedure while incarcerated presents many challenges, including facilities’ ad hoc responses to abortion requests and the logistics and challenges of organizing transportation and payment.

The brief also discusses the practice of shackling, prison nursery programs, and policy reforms needed to address the gendered needs of women prisoners.

Although Orange is the New Black errs on the dramatic side of storytelling, it does provide an overdue platform for discussing the basic human rights of incarcerated women who have the same rights as civilians to make decisions about their own bodies.