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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker wants to bring back $2.5 million in federal funding that was once used to give low-income or uninsured women access to birth control.
“Of all medical care, looking at the most clear-cut economical benefits, contraception is at the top of that list,” said Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful. “When women are able to make a better plan for when they want to have children, and avoid unplanned pregnancies, everyone is better off.”
However, women who were receiving assistance to cover contraceptive cost lost that help in the fall when President Donald Trump changed the rules for the federal Title X Family Planning Program.
Trump’s changes require that any entity that receives Title X grant money can’t be involved with abortions in any way, including referring someone for an abortion procedure elsewhere. His move cut Planned Parenthood out of the picture.
“All federal money comes with strings,” Ward said.
He believes that “just because Planned Parenthood isn’t getting it,” other services in Utah should be able to use that funding, and HB254 aims to allow for that.
Existing state law, however, doesn’t allow teens to get birth control without parental consent. That doesn’t jibe with the federal grant rules, which require clinics to give contraceptives to teens who want it. Ward wants to change Utah statute to say that providers can give contraceptives to teens in situations where it might be more detrimental not to — perhaps, a homeless teenager, one living in an abusive situation, or teens afraid of their parents’ reaction.
“Those less common situations are usually the highest risk folks,” Ward said.
The lawmaker, who is also a physician, agrees that contraceptives can have side effects, but said they have a strong benefit-to-risk ratio and make economical sense, and also help women’s overall health.
“I think it needs to be available,” Ward said, adding that when women are able to have children when planned, “they are often no longer low-income women and can have their children when their lives are going well.”
Ward expects opposition to the bill, but his main hope is to get the funding restored in Utah.
HB254 has been introduced in the House but has not yet been assigned to a committee hearing.