State awards $6 million to organizations to increase contraception access

Virginia Mercury

In an effort to improve access to family-planning options, the state has awarded $6 million to 12 health care organizations across Virginia so they can provide long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to their patients through May 2020.

The program, dubbed the Virginia LARC initiative, is meant to help reduce unintended pregnancies, according to a Virginia Department of Health news release. About 49 percent of women in the state said their pregnancy was unintended in 2015.

LARCs are lauded by many health professionals as the most effective contraceptive option. They include intrauterine devices and implants inserted into the upper arm, and can prevent pregnancies for up to 10 years in some cases.

Unintended pregnancies can result in a slew of health issues for children for a variety of reasons. Often women are not in optimal health when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and they might delay prenatal care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Women should be in control of their own health care, and that includes access to all forms of contraception,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement.

Northam has been pushing for expanded LARC access since his time as lieutenant governor. There was some push back on adding money to the budget last year, though, especially because some have raised concerns about intrauterine devices, a type of LARC, claiming they cause abortions.

Medical groups, though, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, agree that the contraceptives do not cause abortions.

The $6 million comes from the state’s block grant Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides eligible families with a stipend to meet their monthly needs.