Tag Archives: women’s reproductive health

New tip sheet explores health equity in reproductive health care

Photo by Diedre Smith, Navy Medicine via Flickr.

It may take months or years before we grasp the health-related ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling that makes it legal for states to ban and restrict abortion. But the existing health equity data about key reproductive health measures — including maternal mortality, birth control use, and abortion — offer clues and raise questions about the short- and long-term effects the decision will have on the quality of health of females from the country’s largest race and ethnic groups.

With those health topics in mind, we’re offering a new tip sheet with resources about unintended pregnancy, birth control use and abortion. These materials may help explain why trends aren’t solely the result of personal choices or cultural practices but also related to lingering distrust of a medical system rife with racist policies, socioeconomic bias among medical providers, availability of medical facilities, and other social and structural determinants of wellbeing. The reports, studies, and data we’re sharing will help you add more depth to stories about the implications of the Supreme Court ruling on a procedure that is an integral part of reproductive health care.

Disparities in reproductive health measures

In the process of gathering information to explain why non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women may be most affected by the decision, all roads lead to birth control data. The CDC authors of this 2021 report on abortion trends connect the dots between birth control use and unintended pregnancy and abortion patterns. More specifically, the report’s authors suggest that differences in quality family planning services, among other reasons, could explain why non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women of reproductive age are more likely than their non-Hispanic white counterparts to have unintended pregnancies and abortions. (see Figure 1)

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HHS seeks to protect patient privacy as states outlaw abortion

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra (Photo courtesy of HHS)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday outlined plans to try to protect patients’ civil rights and privacy as states move to outlaw abortion, including reaffirming limits on medical professionals’ sharing of information with law enforcement officials.

HHS also offered tips for protecting health information shared with third-party apps. In these efforts, HHS highlighted the role of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule in protecting patients while also effectively showing some limits to federal protection. 

The HIPAA rules, for example, generally do not protect the privacy or security of information when it is accessed through or stored on personal cell phones or tablets, with some exceptions for ones developed by organizations covered by federal privacy law, HHS said. Information collected may be sold to data brokers, often selling it for marketing or other purposes.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued new guidance addressing how federal law and regulations protect individuals’ private medical information (known as protected health information or PHI) relating to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care. In it, HHS said that law enforcement officials seeking access to medical records must have court orders or otherwise have met privacy mandates.

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SCOTUS strikes down Roe as expected; half of states likely to ban abortion

Photo by Elvert Barnes via Flickr.

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) handed down its expected decision in the highly anticipated Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case Friday morning, finding no constitutional basis for abortion.

The court, voting 6-3, now leaves the issue to state governments. Missouri was the first state to execute its trigger ban, prohibiting all abortion in the state.

The decision to overturn the right to abortion upends a precedent established in 1973 and re-affirmed in 1992, as Amy Howe reported for SCOTUS blog. “In one of the most anticipated rulings in decades, the court overturned Roe, which first declared a constitutional right to abortion in 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which re-affirmed that right in 1992.”

Journalists should note that Howe reported the vote as 5-4, writing this: “The vote to overturn Roe was 5-4.  Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Alito’s opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the opinion. He agreed with the majority that the Mississippi abortion restriction at issue in the case should be upheld, but in a separate opinion, he argued that the court should not have overturned Roe.”

At The New York Times, Adam Liptak wrote that the decision will transform American life, reshape the nation’s politics and lead to all but total bans on the procedure in about half of the states. “The ruling will test the legitimacy of the court and vindicate a decades-long Republican project of installing conservative justices prepared to reject the precedent, which had been repeatedly reaffirmed by earlier courts,” he added. Also, the decision will be one of the legacies of former President Donald J. Trump, who named three justices who were in the majority, he noted.

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Impact of expected Roe v. Wade reversal on telehealth and femtech providers

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu via pexels.

A predicted overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade case by the U.S. Supreme Court may force some people of childbearing age to turn to telehealth and femtech (technologies such as mobile apps or other products related to women’s health and wellness) for reproductive care, potentially crossing state lines to use these options.

There are many health IT angles to pursue within this larger story, including what telehealth and femtech providers are doing about safeguarding their patients’ and consumers’ data. Journalists can also find out what users of these services are concerned about, what advocacy organizations are promoting to protect consumers, and some downstream effects regarding women’s health and data collection.

Telehealth and reproductive health care

The overturning of Roe v. Wade could lead to a surge in visits to telehealth clinics prescribing abortion medications online, STAT’s Health Tech newsletter reported in its May 5 issue. However, the clinics would only be able to operate in states where abortion — and telemedicine prescriptions for the medication — remain legal — meaning patients in more restrictive states would have to cross state lines to access virtual care.

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New tip sheet guides reporting on rise of medication abortion and its safety

With the U.S. Supreme Court expected within weeks to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade case, journalists can anticipate an increased focus on abortion pills.

With that in mind, here’s a new tip sheet to aid reporters covering the patient-safety aspect of the use of this medication, also known as RU-486.

In 2020, medication abortion accounted for 54% of U.S. abortions, marking the first time it has made up the majority of all abortions, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. The institute’s report shows a slow uptick in the use of this treatment since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 2000, first approved the use of the drug mifepristone, also known under the brand name Mifeprex. It’s taken in combination with another medicine, misoprostol, to end early pregnancies. The treatment interrupts the hormone progesterone that the body needs to continue a pregnancy.

State officials long have been preparing for a Supreme Court case that allows for either an outright ban or greater restrictions on abortion access, wrote Kaiser Family Foundation researchers Laurie Sobel, Alina Salganicoff, and Amrutha Ramaswamy in a May 16 report. There’s an expectation that half of states will seek to block legal abortion, they noted.

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