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Lawmakers urge HHS to bolster contraceptive training, education

Citing a high rate of unintended pregnancy, a group of liberal lawmakers in Congress on Monday sent a letter urging the Obama administration to bolster provider training and education on contraception, Rewire reports.

The letter, spearheaded by the congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, was addressed to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The lawmakers asked HHS to issue a response by Dec. 23.

Letter details

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote, "We must make certain that providers have the training and resources they need to provide quality patient counseling and effectively educate patients about the safety and effectiveness of all forms of contraception so that each woman can select the family planning method that best meets her medical needs and personal preference."

The lawmakers praised recent efforts to end "historic billing and coding practices" that hinder long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) delivery, but they expressed concern over a recent study showing that less than half of OB-GYNs know that an intrauterine device can be placed immediately postpartum.

Further, in the letter, the lawmakers noted that while the rate of unintended pregnancy in 2011 declined to a 40-year-low, the current rate -- at 45 percent -- is "a much higher rate than (in) other developed countries." The lawmakers added that the rate of unintended pregnancy is higher among low-income women.

"Unintended pregnancies can lead to negative outcomes for both women and newborns, including poorer preconception maternal health, delayed prenatal care, increased risk of prematurity, and low birth weight," the lawmakers wrote. They continued, "More can and should be done to reduce these risks and empower women by increasing awareness of and access to a full range of contraceptive options."

To address these concerns, the lawmakers urged HHS to focus on patient-centered counseling, gaps in education about safety and effectiveness, and confusion over care delivery, reimbursement and state and federal laws. The lawmakers wrote, "By enhancing learning tools and voluntary training opportunities, we hope to build on the progress we have already made by arming both providers and women with the information they need" (Grimaldi, Rewire, 10/24).