“As a physician and advocate,

I understand the importance of access to a wide range of affordable contraception options. Birth control is essential for the health and well-being of women and their families.”

Margaret Baylson, MD


Physicians for Reproductive Health believes that access to contraception is of vital importance to women’s health because it allows them to determine the timing and spacing of pregnancies. In the medical world, we have studied birth control methods and their effects for decades. We know, based on enormous amounts of scientific evidence, that contraception is crucial to women’s well-being, their children’s health, and their ability to educate themselves, achieve career goals, care for and support their families, and otherwise participate in society. As physicians, we see every day how it improves our patients’ lives.

The contraceptives that are most reliable, however, can be too expensive for many women to afford out of pocket. Because we believe every woman should be able to choose from a broad array FDA-approved contraceptives to find the one that meets her health needs, we advocated in support of the Affordable Care Act. We were thrilled when the Supreme Court upheld health care reform in June 2012.

Federal rules are now in effect that require private insurance plans to cover the full cost of preventive health services for women, including contraceptives, without co-pays or any other extra charges. Some institutions–both faith-based and private, secular businesses–are objecting to new federal rules requiring their employees’ health insurance policies to cover contraception. Allowing employers to refuse to offer this benefit is harmful to women and their families, and we believe all women deserve affordable birth control.

Read more about what we’re doing to advocate for better access to contraception for all women.

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Physicians for Reproductive Health: Updated Mifeprex Label Is A Win For Science

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is revising the label of the drug Mifeprex (mifepristone), a critical step that will ensure that this medication can be provided in accordance with the current standard of care. The announcement means that providers in states that have unnecessarily restricted medication abortion access will once again be able to provide a high standard of evidence-based care to their patients.

Dr. Nancy Stanwood, Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“We applaud the FDA for recognizing the safety of medication abortion and the voluminous research that shows evidence-based regimens are beneficial to patients. As physicians, we work every day to provide the highest quality care to our patients. An updated label means that providers in states that require adherence to the FDA-approved Mifeprex label will not have to practice outdated medicine.

 “We at Physicians for Reproductive Health believe strongly that access to abortion is crucial to women’s health. We decry the laws and policies that have targeted abortion for unnecessary restrictions in an effort to discourage providers and block patients. Millions of women in the United States and Europe have used Mifeprex to safely end pregnancies, and it was profoundly disappointing to see it restricted in some states for political reasons. Abortion opponents object to medication abortion because it allows women more options for ending an early pregnancy – and they want to restrict access to this safe method of early abortion.

 “I hope that today marks a new chapter in expanding rather than restricting access to safe abortion, providing women with access to the best modern medical care for their reproductive health needs.”


Background on mifepristone

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug called mifepristone, marketed as Mifeprex, for abortion in 2000 after many years of study. It is used in conjunction with another medication called misoprostol. The steady increase in use of medication abortion – now 23% of U.S. abortions – shows that many women prefer this option.

Today’s announcement makes a number of important revisions to the Mifeprex label, including:

  • Lowering the recommended mifepristone dosage from 600mg to 200mg. Numerous studies confirm that mifepristone is equally effective at lower dosages than the regimen in the 2000 label, meaning that a woman can take less medication – resulting in fewer side effects and lower costs.
  • Altering the dosage and route of administration for the second drug in the medication abortion regimen, misoprostol, to reflect the most effective evidence based regimens.
  • Extending the window of use of mifepristone from 49 days to 70 days based on medical research. The time between 49 and 70 days gestation is critical for patient access, as approximately 30% of women who seek an abortion present for care during this time.
  • Allowing health care providers authorized under state law to provide abortion to prescribe mifepristone. The 2000 label restricted distribution to physicians though several states allow advanced practice clinicians to provide abortion care.
  • Ending the requirement that women to have an in-person clinic visit for their follow-up appointments after being prescribed mifepristone. An in-person appointment is not always medically necessary and, when required, creates significant additional costs and barriers to abortion care.


Medical Groups Issue Amicus Brief in Support of Contraception Access

“Decisions concerning contraceptive use, like all health care decisions, should be made by patients in consultation with their health care professionals.”

New York, NY— The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians), the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Nurses Association, along with other medical groups, have filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell. In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the accommodation offered to religiously affiliated organizations by the Affordable Care Act violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The amicus brief explains that contraception is essential to women’s health and well-being, a critical component of preventive care, and integral to the health of families.

Background: In implementing the contraceptive benefit, the Obama Administration accommodated certain employers with religious objections to birth control by allowing them to opt out of covering it for their employees, provided that they fill out a form notifying their insurer, or the government, of the employer’s objection. If the employer provides such notice, the insurer would then provide coverage to the employee at no cost to the employer. Despite this, several employers have sued the Administration, alleging that the accommodation violates RFRA. Now, the Supreme Court will review seven of these challenges as part of Zubik v. Burwell.

Excerpt of amicus brief: The contraception coverage requirement recognizes that women of childbearing age have unique health needs and that contraception counseling and services are essential components of women’s preventive health care. Decisions concerning contraceptive use, like all health care decisions, should be made by patients in consultation with their health care professionals based on the best interests of the patient. This is best accomplished when contraceptive coverage is provided within the same overall framework as a woman’s other health care services in consultation with a woman’s chosen provider. The accommodation accomplishes this, while at the same time respecting an employer’s sincerely held religious objections to contraception….

Under the accommodation, prescription contraceptives are covered seamlessly and automatically as part of a woman’s health insurance package. If access to appropriate, cost-free contraception is removed from women’s routine health care services or is made more difficult to obtain, the likely result is that many women will simply not use contraception or will use an imperfect form of contraception inconsistently or improperly, with a concomitant increase in unintended pregnancies with all their consequences.  

The amicus brief can be read and downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1Q3nBux

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 23.


Highly Effective and Low-Maintenance: Spreading LARC Awareness

Dr. Pratima GuptaLARC Awareness Week is November 15-21. Our Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow Dr. Pratima Gupta discusses why long-acting reversible contraceptives are a great option.

After being plagued by with a bad reputation and lack of awareness, long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are finally gaining much-deserved momentum. The Guttmacher Institute recently reported that U.S. women are increasingly turning to highly effective LARC methods—particularly intrauterine devices (IUDs). According to the report, the IUD and the contraceptive implant use increased from about 9% in 2009 to nearly 12% in 2012.

As a physician, I can personally vouch for the fact that IUDs are the most popular method of birth control used by family planning practitioners — we know firsthand about their safety profile and efficacy. With failure rates of less than 1% per year, LARCs are the most effective reversible methods available.

Most women are excellent IUD candidates, regardless of age or whether they’ve had children or not. And depending on what IUD option they choose, they don’t need to worry about birth control for three, five, or 10 years.

Despite all of this great news, those of us who work in reproductive health and family planning still have to counter the misinformation, especially about IUDs, on a regular basis. Sometimes a patient will tell me that she’s interested in getting an IUD but that a friend told her that they were dangerous, or that she heard only women who have had kids can use them. I always explain what I know to be true: IUDs are safe and effective and appropriate for women of all ages.

The implant (Nexplanon®) is a popular method with my younger patients, which isn’t a surprise. In one large contraceptive study, over 40% of those surveyed under 18 opted for the implant. Smaller than a matchstick, it is discreet and hidden under the skin of the inner arm. It is an easy two-minute insertion that feels like getting a shot and doesn’t require a pelvic exam. It has the lowest failure rate of any form of contraception — 0.05% — and works for three years.

LARCs are fantastic—they’re highly effective and low-maintenance. But I always tell my patients that the best birth control method for them is the one that they choose for themselves—and the one they feel most comfortable using. That’s why we discuss all the options available, the full range of contraceptive methods, including LARC methods.

If you are a health care practitioner looking to learn more about LARC, here are some great resources:


Supreme Court Will Hear Challenges to ACA Contraception Coverage

Dr. Nancy StanwoodThe Affordable Care Act has proven critical in improving women’s health, and in particular the provision that requires insurance companies cover birth control without a copay. Responding to the news that the Supreme Court of the United States would grant the challenges to the Affordable Care Act, in which plaintiffs are seeking an exemption from covering contraception for employees as mandated, our board chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood responded:

“The Affordable Care Act did the right thing for public health and women’s health by ensuring that everyone who needs birth control can get the method that is right for them, without co-pays. If the plaintiffs succeed in their case, countless people will lose this benefit and face costly barriers to accessing affordable contraception….One person’s beliefs should not dictate the health care that another receives.”

Read her entire statement here