BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — Family planning clinics in Western Massachusetts say they’ve had to cut down on services since the state cut their funding by 17 percent last October due to slow economic growth. That means women have had to travel farther to access health services, or skip it altogether.
“It isn’t okay to say to someone who lives in Greenfield that they have to go all the way to Springfield to get a family planning or birth control visit or to get an HIV test or pap smear,” said Leslie Laurie, president/CEO of Tapestry Health, a family planning organization with several clinics in Western Massachusetts.
Family planning advocates are asking the governor for a $1.5 million dollar increase in state budget funding – for a total of more than $6 million dollars. A Guttmacher Institute report says that in 2008, contraception handed out by family planning clinics helped Massachusetts women avoid nearly 26,000 unintended pregnancies.
“Particularly with teens in a city like Holyoke that has one of the highest teen birth rates in the state,” said Tapestry Health Prevention Services Director Timothy Purington. “It’s critical to have access to reproductive health care to help reduce those rates and give the young woman a chance in life.”
Advocates say that by preventing unintended pregnancies, family planning programs save Massachusetts nearly $90 million in health care costs each year. Tapestry Health says their services are critical for low income families and young women.
“Especially for students in the Pioneer Valley, it’s helped them find affordable, safe and confidential health care. Particularly women when it comes to reproductive care, they can be discreet while being responsible,” said Owanate Briggs, an assistant at Tapestry Health.
Advocates say access to emergency contraception resulted in a 43 percent decline in abortions between 1994 and 2000.
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