Lt. Gov. Northam announces program to increase education and access to reproductive health services

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RICHMOND (WSLS10) - Virginia women could soon have better access to free birth control.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam announced a new pilot program which would help women with family planning by giving them access to free contraception.

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The program also aims to educate women about the types of contraception available to them, and would also train clinicians.

The $9 million project would be paid for through federal grants. However, it is tied into Gov. McAuliffe's biennial budget.

The full release is below:

Richmond, VA - Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that Governor McAuliffe's budget establishes a pilot program to support women and their families in planning for their pregnancies. Family planning leads to better outcomes for women, their children, and the community as a whole. About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Medical advances in contraception have led to the availability of methods that are more effective but not all Virginians know this or can afford birth control. This investment is based on recommendations of the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success and provides education and access for those who need assistance.

Speaking at Northern Virginia Community College, Lt. Gov. Northam said, "Education and access to family planning services help women and families live healthy and prosperous lives in Virginia. When pregnancies are planned, it is easier for Virginians to achieve life goals like getting a college education or starting a business. And when any business looks to come to Virginia, we want that business to know we are a welcoming and open place for women and families to live and work."

"Virginia has made progress in recent years resulting in more thriving infants," said Dr. Marissa Levine, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health. "I am grateful the Governor's administration directed resources to launch a program that will allow us to build on our efforts to give families the strongest possible start."

Core components of the program include:

- Providing the contraception at no cost to eligible women

- Conducting outreach to increase awareness and education regarding the full range of contraceptive options available

- Training clinicians on procedures and uses of the contraceptive options

- Measuring the impact of greater access to better birth control

A similar program in Colorado reduced teen births by 40 percent and teen abortions by 42 percent. For every $1 invested in educating women and providing access to contraceptive options, the program saved Colorado more than $5 in Medicaid costs.

The Governor's two-year budget plan directs $9 million in Non-general, federal grant funds and one staff person to establish the pilot program. Lt. Gov. Northam will work with the Governor and legislators to ensure the program is approved in the final budget.

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