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Tag: Health & Social Service Providers

Telehealth: A Lifeline For Marginalized People

By Michelle Johnson & Isha Datta

If you had told me three or four years ago that I could “go to the doctor” from the comfort of my bed or couch, I would probably have laughed in your face. And then I would have told you that it’s a great idea—because as an overwhelmed twenty-something trying to juggle jobs, debt, health issues, bills, and all the rest… honestly? Cutting out the commute and wait times attached to a doctor’s visit would make it that much more likely that I would actually… go to the doctor.

The thing is, going to the doctor from your couch, or “telehealth”, has actually become super common. When COVID lockdowns and social distancing requirements came down, the healthcare sector spun up telehealth services at high speed and volume to ensure that people could get their blood pressure medication, their prenatal counseling—and yup, even their birth control—from the safety, privacy, and comfort of their own homes. And just like wearing sweatpants to work or seemingly endless Netflix dating shows, telehealth is one of the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that seems to be here to stay, with more and more people reporting that they prefer telehealth over in-person visits. In fact, telehealth use amongst the general population is 38 times higher now than it was pre-COVID. In conversations with friends, I’ve learned that many of my peers now prefer telehealth for routine appointments—like therapy or counseling—because it makes it that much easier (read: actually possible) to be consistent and fit health needs into hectic day-to-day schedules.

The reality is, though, that while telehealth has become widely popular for the convenience factor—for a lot of people, it’s a lifeline and the only way they can access healthcare. It’s important to name that disability rights activists were fighting for accessible telehealth long before the pandemic forced the health system into ramping up this type of care. That telehealth now benefits everyone is a great example of the “curb cut effect”: in the same way that adding “cuts” to sidewalk curbs for wheelchair access made it easier for everyone to navigate the sidewalk with strollers, bikes, and the like—telehealth appointments, and increased accessibility for disabled people in our health system, benefit everyone and society at large.

Here are some of the reasons that telehealth appointments—and making sure they truly are accessible—are so important:

1.       Time. For a lot of people, taking time off work is just not an option. And setting up childcare or elder care can make it even harder to finagle a few hours out of a workday. Setting up a birth control appointment via telehealth completely cuts out commute time to and from the health center—in addition to time spent in a health center’s waiting room. We know that immigrants, women, and people of color disproportionately work jobs that do not give them the flexibility to take time off work. If you just do not have the time to commute to the health center for your birth control, then telehealth might be a great option for you.

2.       Privacy concerns. This is particularly relevant for young people or people experiencing or at risk of domestic violence. If you’re worried about privacy and feel like making a trip to the health center may be a risk for you—or if you’re too young to drive or don’t have public transport options—telehealth can give you the option of getting your birth control care from a safe place. The same privacy and confidentiality rules that apply to in-person visits also apply to telehealth. The clinician should state “HIPAA laws require that I conduct the telehealth appointment with no one else present.” If you or someone you know is at risk of domestic violence, help is available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233. Hours: 24/7. Languages: English, Spanish and 200+ through interpretation service.

3.       Accessibility. We know that navigating the health care system is hard for everyone—but it’s especially challenging for people with disabilities. And even though the ADA makes sure that all health centers are equipped to provide accessible care to all, sometimes it still isn’t enough.  A telehealth visit allows for critical, additional support that people with disabilities often require. For one thing, telehealth appointments can ease the burden and loss of time of having to find an interpreter by allowing a patient to have an already available friend, family member or established interpreter help them with their needs from the comfort of their home. For those who are hearing or vision-impaired, a patient can adjust settings on a mobile device to make it easier to see, hear, and receive a more comprehensive understanding of the information being shared, depending on whether the telehealth appointment is via phone or videoconference. For those who are mobility impaired, accommodations on public transit are often out of order, or are limited to one or two people per bus or train. This makes it difficult or expensive to commute to the health center, even if accommodations are in place at the site itself. Telehealth also widely benefits people with non-apparent disabilities, who are often shamed into forgoing the disability accommodations that exist in many public places. Again, if this is your situation—you can get care through a telehealth appointment. Make sure you let the health center know about your accommodation needs when you set up your appointment.

4.       Anxiety about the health center. For some people, particularly people of color, folks identifying as queer/gender-nonconforming, or people with disabilities, a visit to the health center can be triggering or anxiety-inducing—even if you know that you like and trust your doctor and are going in for care that you really, really need. If this sounds like you, first, know you’re not alone. Second, all ICAN! providers are trained in TRUER care: care that is Trauma-informed, Respectful, Unconscious-bias checked, Evidence-based, and Reproductive well-being centered. And third, telehealth could be a great option for you. Again, you can have your visit wherever you feel comfortable taking a call.

5.       You live too far away. Sometimes, it’s just that simple. Your one health center is far away, and you know they don’t have the birth control method you want. Again, you’re not alone—19 million women actually live in counties without reasonable access to all birth control methods. If this is you, telehealth is going to drastically increase the options that you have for care. You can even get birth control refills shipped to your door.

To wrap up—telehealth is just part of how we do things now. These ICAN! Quality Hub providers can set you up with a telehealth appointment to get your birth control of choice from the comfort of your own home. And remember—don’t forget to thank the people who fought to make this care accessible for those who need it most.

Authors: Michelle Johnson & Isha Datta

Community Pulse | Supporting Opportunities for Contraceptive Access

Community Pulse | Supporting Opportunities for Contraceptive Access

Health Care Council of Chicago Executive Director Meghan Phillipp checks in with Kai Tao, Co-founder and Principal at ICAN! (Illinois Contraceptive Access Now) on her experiences as a provider advocating and supporting opportunities for contraceptive access on this Community Pulse spotlight.

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Community Pulse | Smart Policies in Illinois to Support Women’s Health and Family

Community Pulse | Smart Policies in Illinois to Support Women’s Health and Family

Health Care Council of Chicago Executive Director Meghan Phillipp checks in with Katie Thiede, Executive Director of ICAN! (Illinois Contraceptive Access Now) on their efforts to advance smart policies in Illinois to support women’s health and family planning on this Community Pulse spotlight.

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Turning our grief and rage into action: what we can do together

Turning Our Grief and Rage Into Action: What We Can Do Together

Photo of a women's march in support of reproductive rights.

We emphatically denounce the unjust and devastating decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the constitutional right to abortion. As an initiative informed by the principles of reproductive justice and led by lifelong advocates for reproductive rights and health equity, ICAN! vows to meet this moment by channeling our grief and rage into tenacity, proactivity, and bold leadership. We renew our commitment to fight for the right of every person to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to become pregnant and parent, and we pledge to center the lived experiences of women with few resources, women of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals who will be most profoundly impacted by state abortion bans.

With millions of women and people who can become pregnant robbed of their right to reproductive autonomy, it is more important than ever that they are able to easily obtain the birth control method of their choice. Know that ICAN! and its partner health centers will not turn anyone away for birth control no matter where they live. Birth control remains safe and legal in all 50 states and abortion remains safe and legal in Illinois.

We have developed the following resources for patients, providers, and policymakers. Please distribute widely!

We must defend access to reproductive health and work to normalize the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care. Thank you for all that you have done and will do to ensure that people accessing health care in Illinois can realize their right to reproductive well-being. We are grateful for your partnership.

In solidarity,

Katie Thiede and Kai Tao, co-founders, ICAN! emphasis>

P.S. Eager to take the next step in expanding access for your patients and community? Join us! ICAN! is building a statewide network of providers committed to tackling barriers to same-day access to all birth control methods at low or no cost. Apply today!

P.P.S. If you haven’t already, please read our Heartland Signal op-ed outlining what we can do in Illinois to live up to our reputation as a beacon for reproductive health care access.

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Who to Watch in Higher Education, Evidence-Based Policy, and Contraceptive Choice and Access in 2023

Who to Watch in Higher Education, Evidence-Based Policy, and Contraceptive Choice and Access in 2023

Snapshot of images from

ICAN! was named as an organization to watch in 2023 by an Arnold Ventures article this week:

ICAN is a state-wide organization dedicated to improving the quality and coverage of contraceptive care at community health centers. It believes that people should have the ability to decide if and when they would like to have a family. ICAN is capitalizing on a strong year of advocacy. In 2022, it helped pass legislation to expand Medicaid for family planning via a state plan amendment (SPA), and it helped work to pass pharmacist-prescribed birth control. In 2023, the organization will partner with state agencies to implement the new legislation on the ground.

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ICAN! Newsletter | 3rd Edition | September 2021

ICAN! Newsletter | 3rd Edition | September 2021

September is Sexual Health Month

And September 26th marks World Contraception Day—an annual global campaign to improve awareness of modern contraception and to enable young people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health. Be sure to follow @ican4all for new content and live discussions with partners like Embrace Sexual Wellness, Free Root Operation, and Calor Chicago all month long!

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Clinical Update: CDC releases 2021 STI Treatment Guidelines

The updated guidelines include questions adopted from the PATH framework as part of the The Five “P”s: a guide to taking sexual health history. PATH questions discuss reproductive goals and are designed to be inclusive, non-judgmental, and non-stigmatizing. They support equity by centering personal autonomy in conversations about parenting, pregnancy, and sexual health.

ICAN!’s TRUER Care Resource Center includes additional about the PATH framework. PATH questions also serve as the basis for our birth control quiz, which helps patients to identify their contraceptive preferences prior to their appointment with a provider.

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Policy Update: Gov. Pritzker approves SB 967!

Over the past year, ICAN! has advocated for a model Family Planning State Plan Amendment (SPA) that would significantly expand coverage for contraceptive care for Illinoisans with few resources. On August 24th, Gov. Pritzker approved SB 967, a bill that ensures enactment of a Family Planning SPA which will enable an estimated 70,000 individuals to become eligible for coverage of contraceptive care and screenings related to reproductive well-being. This is a critical step toward ensuring that everyone in Illinois can decide if and when to be pregnant and parent.

We are grateful to the bill’s sponsors—Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) and Representative Latoya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis)—and to our advocacy partners: Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, EverThrive Illinois, Illinois Primary Health Care Association, Ci3 at the University of Chicago, ACOG, and Cook County Health for all their hard work!

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Metrics that Matter: patient survey

Collecting patient-reported experience metrics (PREM) is essential to measuring contraceptive care quality.
ICAN!’s patient experience survey is based on the NQF-endorsed Patient-Centered Contraceptive Counseling survey (PCCC) and takes less than 1 minute to complete. Please be sure to ask your patients and clients to fill out the survey following their appointment! Their voices matter!

ICAN! Co-founder, Kai Tao, named Fund for New Leadership Fellow

ICAN! is proud to announce that our co-founder, Kai Tao, has been selected to join the Fund for New Leadership’s (FNL) inaugural Fellowship class. With the support of FNL, ICAN! will be able to expand upon our efforts to advance reproductive equity by improving the quality and coverage of contraceptive care in Illinois.

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ICAN! awarded HRSA “Emerging Issues” Grant

We are excited to announce that ICAN! has been awarded a one-year grant for approximately $250,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant is part of HRSA’s 2021 Emerging Issues in Maternal and Child Health Program.

With this grant, ICAN! will build the capacity of community health networks statewide to become Contraceptive Care Quality Hubs (Quality Hubs), delivering high-quality, person-centered contraceptive care within a primary care context.

Introducing…ICAN!’s newest team member!

Jordan Hatcher (she/her), MPH, joins ICAN! as our new Program Director. She brings a wealth of experience supporting family planning and reproductive health initiatives, including her recent work with the United Nations Foundation Family Planning 2020 initiative. Many of you will be meeting Jordan in the coming days and weeks; please join us in welcoming her to the team!

Learn more about the ICAN! team

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ICAN! Newsletter | 2nd Edition | June 2021 

ICAN! Newsletter | 2nd Edition | June 2021

Screenshot of the new website homepage with text

New Website Launched!

ICAN!’s new digital platform,, is live! While still a work-in-progress, our website makes it easy for patients to find inclusive, accessible, objective information about all birth control options and to connect with a Quality Hub providing patient-centered contraceptive care.
Features include:

  • Our Find a Health Provider tool that allows users to search for Quality Hubs based on location, ages served, and insurance coverage status.
  • A quiz that helps users identify the birth control methods that will best meet their personal goals and preferences. Add this quiz to your website! Click here for instructions!
  • Our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and a Before Your Visit Checklist provide answers to some of the most common questions about birth control and prepare users to make the most of their Quality Hub visit.
  • A User Experience Survey that collects patient-reported experiences o enable continuous quality improvement.
  • ICAN! Phone A Friend—a feature that allows users to schedule a time to chat with someone who can help answer any questions.

Provider Resources

As part of our website launch, ICAN! introduced its TRUER Care Resource Center where health and social service providers can find:

  • ICAN!’s Foundational webinars which ground providers in key concepts related to Quality Family Planning and Reproductive Justice.
  • Curated trainings from leading reproductive health organizations, practitioners, and researchers to strengthen clinical knowledge and skills.
  • Training modules on how to optimize your health center’s billing and coding practices for contraceptive services.

As we celebrate Pride this month and consider how we can provide the best experience to LGBTQIA+ patients, it’s important to remember the value of establishing rapport and trust and using patients’ preferred name and pronouns when providing contraceptive counseling. These concepts and more are covered in ICAN!’s new TRUER Patient-Centered Care video. Please watch, share, and help TRUER Care become THE standard for contraceptive care delivery!

Rainbow candies that look like a divider

Metrics that Matter

ICAN! is committed to developing and sharing meaningful metrics to evaluate our collective success in improving access to TRUER contraceptive care. In the past weeks, we’ve begun testing some creative approaches to data entry and collection!

  • Patient-Reported Experience Metrics (PREM) are essential for quality improvement. To help collect patient experience feedback, each Quality Hub health center received white paper bags (pictured) that they’ll fill with condoms and other useful products and distribute to patients post-appointment. The QR code printed on the bag links to ICAN!’s patient experience survey, based on the NQF-endorsed Patient-Centered Contraceptive Counseling survey (PCCC).
  • Contraceptive encounters: ICAN! distributed candies with the Z30.09 ICD code printed on them to all Quality Hubs. Our goal is to provide fun ways to encourage staff to document this code for any patient visit where they provide general counseling and advice on contraception, which falls under “Encounter for contraceptive management”. Consistent coding will not only ensure we can accurately measure progress in improving access to care, but also will enable health centers to maximize reimbursement for services.

Policy Update

Family planning coverage

A win for Illinoisans! Senator Castro’s omnibus bill (SB 967) to address disparities in maternal mortality and support new mothers passed the Illinois General Assembly with full support (116 yes votes and 0 no votes)! Of particular importance to ICAN!, the bill directs HFS to seek federal approval of a State Plan Amendment (SPA) to expand coverage for family planning services that includes presumptive eligibility to individuals whose income is at or below 208% of the federal poverty level.

This is a critical step toward implementing a model Family Planning SPA in Illinois! To learn more about this policy and the inclusions that will enable expanded access to high quality contraceptive care for thousands of Illinoisans, please read ICAN!’s white paper, Advancing a Model Family Planning State Plan Amendment.

Pharmacy prescribing

HB 135 allows qualified pharmacists to prescribe and dispense a 12-month supply of hormonal birth control beginning in January 2022. This measure passed the Illinois General Assembly and is awaiting Governor Pritzker’s signature.

Community Partners

We are proud to spotlight 2 of our partner organizations! These exemplary community-based social service providers are committed to connecting their program participants to care at ICAN! Quality Hubs and to educating them about all forms of birth control and reproductive rights in Illinois.

New Moms supports young moms, 24 and under, experiencing poverty in Chicagoland to take powerful first steps toward mobility and family well-being.

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Apna Ghar provides critical, comprehensive, culturally competent services and conducts outreach and advocacy across communities to end gender violence.

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Learn about what it means to be an official ICAN! Community Partner. Join ICAN!’s Director of Community Engagement, Dr. Toni M. Bond, and Community Engagement Manager, Angela Townsend on Tuesday, July 6th at 12 pm CT for an informational webinar.

Youth Education

This spring, ICAN! delivered our educational workshop, “Birth Control: the History, the Facts, and How to Get the Care You Deserve” to nearly 1,000 Chicago Public School students at Clemente, Prosser, and Lindblom high schools. This youth-friendly, informative, and engaging presentation shares evidenced-based information on all birth control methods and explains how to access patient-centered contraceptive care at low to no cost.

If you’re interested in bringing this workshop to your school or organization, please contact to schedule!

In The News

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ICAN! Newsletter | 1st Edition | March 10, 2021

ICAN! Newsletter | 1st Edition | March 2021

ICAN! is a 5-year initiative to advance reproductive equity in illinois by partnering with community health centers to improve the quality and coverage of contraceptive care.

ICAN! represents the evolution of Junoe4Me — a digital birth control education nd connect-to-care platform which has connected Chicago-area users to high quality, no cost birth control since 2018. By embracing key learnings from this pilot, ICAN! seeks to create an Illinois where every person has the ability to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to be pregnant and parent.

After months of planning, we’ve assembled an all-star team of reproductive health and justice advocates and educators, community health practitioners, and experts in public health research and health care finance. We’ve established critical partnerships with you: the health care providers, community-based organizations, state agencies, and youth community advisors whose collaboration and insights will make our 2021 demonstration year a success.

Together we will:

  • Build the capacity of community health networks to serve as Contraceptive Care Quality Hubs where patient-centered contraceptive counseling and quality family planning services are delivered in the context of primary care.
  • Optimize a direct-to-consumer platform to provide inclusive, youth-informed comprehensive birth control information as well as direct access to in-person and telehealth care; and
  • Test innovative administrative and regulatory policies that will close the contraceptive coverage gap in illinois.

5-Year Goals

  • Build 20+ Contraceptive Care Quality Hubs that have the ability, demand, and capacity to meet patient’s needs for high quality contraceptive care
  • Connect 500,000 patients to person-centered contraceptive counseling.
  • Reduce the contraceptive coverage gap by 50% with 250,000 individuals previously uninsured for contraceptive care receiving high-quality care.
  • Ensure cost is not a barrier for people accessing contraceptive care at a Quality Hub.

Building Contraceptive Care Quality Hubs

ICAN! is partnering with 3 outstanding FQHCs to serve as Contraceptive Care Quality Hubs during our 2021 demonstration year:

Erie Family Health Centers provides high quality medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare to all in need, regardless of ability to pay. Erie delivers holistic care to approximately 82,000 patients annually through 7 primary care locations, a Teen Health Center, and 5 school-based health centers.

Near North Health Service Corporation provides medical services, social services, and nutrition education to 37,000 patients annually living in low-income communities on the north, west, and south sides of Chicago through 9 comprehensive health centers and 2 supplemental nutrition sites.

PCC Community Wellness Center works to improve health outcomes for medically underserved patients by providing high quality, affordable, and accessible primary care. PCC delivers care to nearly 50,000 patients annually through 13 health centers on Chicago’s west side and in the near west suburbs. PCC operates a freestanding birth center as well as a school-based health center at Steinmetz College Prep High School.

Continuing Education

Over the next several months, all Quality Hub staff will have the opportunity to participate in two foundational webinars to ground them in the key principles of reproductive justice and quality family planning.

  • ”Reproductive Justice Foundation and Applications,” delivered by Dr. Toni M. Bond, a founder of the reproductive justice movement.
  • ”Modern, Patient-Centered Contraception,” delivered by Dr. Caroline Hoke, the Chief Clinical Officer at Erie Family Health Centers.

For more information about our work with Quality Hubs, click here!

Learn more about courses

Community Engagement

Community Advisory Board

The first meeting of ICAN!’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) was February 16th. The CAB is a diverse cohort of 20 local leaders, half of whom participate in a dedicated Youth Advisory Board (YAB) for individuals ages 16-24. They are charged with:

  • Guiding ICAN!’s digital development efforts, ensuring content and user experience are accessible, engaging, and actionable.
  • Educating peers on all birth control methods and driving potential users to the digital platform.
  • Producing and distributing digital and print consumer-facing assets.
  • Leveraging relationships with community-based organizations to establish referral pipelines for the digital platform and Quality Hubs.
  • Supporting Quality Hub development by reviewing and providing feedback on training materials and acting as secret shoppers to ensure care is youth-friendly and inclusive.
  • Providing feedback and testimony to ensure ICAN!-proposed policies address community needs.

Community-Based Organizations (CBOs)

We are int he process of identifying CBO partners serving clients of reproductive age in our Quality Hub neighborhoods to help connect patients to care. CBO staff will have the opportunity to participate in reproductive justice and quality family planning trainings.

To learn more about ICAN!’s work with CBOs click here.

Youth Education

Did you know that ICAN! provides informative, fun, and engaging birth control education workshops for adolescents and young adults?

We not only educate young people about all of their birth control options but can also directly connect them to youth-friendly contraceptive care at their local Quality Hub! If you work with or know of an organization that would be interested in bringing our workshop to young people, please contact

Policy Update

The cornerstone of ICAN!’s policy agenda is a model Family Planning State Plan Amendment informed by community partner insights as well as best practices in limited benefits packages beyond family planning coverage. We estimate that in the first year of implementation, the SPA would enable 70,000 low-resource individuals to become eligible for coverage that will include not only contraceptive services and supplies but also associated preventive screenings.

We are thrilled to be working with partners Planned Parenthood Illinois Action and EverThrive Illinois to advocate for this critical step in expanding equitable access to high quality contraceptive care. Stay tuned for progress updates and learn how to support successful implementation!

Patient Voices

There is no better way to understand our impact than through he testimony of our patients!

”I had tried twice to get an IUD — once through my usual provider (which was too expensive) and once through insurance (which referred me to a gynecologist who disagreed with my choice to get an IUD, told me I was making a bad decision, and did not make me feel comfortable in the slightest). I gave up on trying to get the IUD for a few years, and then I saw Juno4Me referenced in a post on a women’s service industry Facebook group during the pandemic. I looked them up, and on top of the fact that they provided services for free (a definite plus since I was unemployed), the website and its description made me feel like my choice would not be discouraged and that its providers would be safe.

I initially was very nervous to make the appointment because of the thought of the actual procedure. However, from the moment they called me to follow up with my online submission, I had nothing but pleasant experiences. The woman who called to schedule my appointment was lovely and very knowledgeable. They gave reminders along the way. Most importantly, the doctors I dealt with were nice, professional, and made sure to give facts without judgement. Thought he procedure itself was painful, the doctor was very reassuring throughout and had a calming presence.

I felt so lucky to have found an organization that would help me get the birth control that I will likely use until I have children.”

Cynthia, 30, Logan Square

Learn more about the ICAN! team

ICAN! Trivia

Q: How old do you have to be to get birth control in Illinois without a parent’s permission?

The first person to respond to with the subject line “trivia” and the correct answer will win a $10 e-gift card to Semicolon Bookstore!

In the News

As we cross the bridge from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, we honor Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey — enslaved women from plantations near Montgomery, Alabama who, without consent or anesthesia, were experimented on by Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the “Father of Modern Gynecology”.

By contrast, Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey fell into history.

This year, Montgomery-based artists and activists will unveil a public monument that will memorialize Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy as the “Mothers of Gynecology”. The goal is not only to tell these women’s stories, but also to “shine a light on ongoing racial disparities in the health care industry today.” We can only move forward with creating a more equitable reproductive health care system when we understand the truths about our past.

Visit to learn more.

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With Abortion Rights Eroding, Contraceptive Care is More Critical Than Ever

With Abortion Rights Eroding, Contraceptive Care is More Critical Than Ever

This article was originally written by Kai Tao, and published on the Fund for New Leadership website.

Every year, on September 26, the international community marks World Contraception Day as an opportunity to raise awareness about the vital role of contraception in adult health and empowerment. Robust research from around the world has demonstrated for decades that access to information and the full range of birth control methods, without infrastructural and interpersonal barriers, contributes uniquely to building a thriving, healthy society in which all people enjoy the benefits of bodily autonomy and economic advancement for themselves and their families. But right now, a staggering one in four reproductive-aged women in Illinois have unmet contraceptive needs – this must change.

When people are unable to access their birth control of choice and get this care with respect, we continue to see disparate maternal and infant health outcomes. And in Illinois, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are more likely than white women to live in a community without a health center that offers patient-centered contraceptive care or to be enrolled in a Medicaid plan with a high penetration of religiously affiliated medical systems that do not offer contraception.

And one of the catalysts to these concerning realities is that many publicly funded health centers in Illinois do not provide equitable access, education, or coverage of contraceptive services. To put it another way, healthcare facilities that are funded by American tax dollars are not held accountable for providing quality comprehensive reproductive health care. It’s time to change that and the good news is there are workable solutions.

On August 24th, Governor Pritzker approved SB 967 that ensures enactment of a Family Planning State Plan Amendment (FP SPA) which will enable tens of thousands of individuals to become eligible for coverage of family planning (i.e. pills, IUD, vasectomy, etc.…) and family planning-related services (i.e. cervical cancer, HIV/ STI screening)  who otherwise were not covered. Family planning services are covered 90% federally/10% by the state; consequently, as of 2021, 26 other states have family planning SPAs in place.  This is an essential next step for Illinois, but Department of Healthcare and Family Services with the Governor’s leadership must go further to ensure that the Family Planning SPA delivers on its promise of expanding coverage to contraceptive care for those most in need.

The FP SPA must be a model SPA, which includes medical presumptive eligibility (MPE), so care is timely. Illinois has MPE coverage upon positive pregnancy verification; thus, providing this coverage for pregnancy prevention is only logical.  The SPA must include a Good Cause Exception for individuals who may have other insurance but who may want to apply for family planning coverage independently due to fear of physical or emotional harm. It must also allow for enrolling as an individual regardless of household income for sake of confidentiality. And lastly, there must be flexible auto-enrollment to maximize coverage. For example, if an individual falls out of coverage for the full Medicaid product but can quality for the FP SPA (e.g., after 12 months postpartum or aging out of CHIP); or if the individual applies only for the FP SPA but qualifies for full benefits.

In addition to ensuring the SPA is set up in way that helps the most people, we must see parallel operational improvements to our state’s Medicaid system which is predominated by 5 MCO plans.

Illinois Medicaid must also:

  1. Require strong access standards and reasonable network coverage for voluntary contraceptive health services;
  2. Ensure member transparency so Medicaid members are informed of full coverage to  all FDA approved contraceptive services by any Medicaid provider, codifying “Freedom of Choice” which is also an accommodation for the high penetration of religiously affiliated health systems in Illinois and;
  3. Adopt contraceptive access and quality pay-for-performance metrics so health centers with comprehensive  provision of quality contraceptive care are rewarded and recognized in the transition to value based care.

Such changes would allow Illinois to serve as a model for states nationwide on how to embed reproductive well-being screening routine in all primary and preventive care visits. By implementing a model Family Planning SPA and encouraging Illinois Medicaid to adopt contract and reporting requirements that will ensure seamless access to high quality contraceptive care for Medicaid members, Illinois can become a state in which every person can decide if, when, and under what circumstances to become pregnant and parent.

Today, far too many Illinoisans face multiple, intersecting barriers to high quality contraceptive services; individuals are prevented from exercising their reproductive autonomy and achieving reproductive well-being, and their communities are unable to achieve optimal health outcomes across the board. World Contraception Day is the ideal opportunity to commit to building a state-wide healthcare system that fully supports the reproductive autonomy of everyone who lives in Illinois; a State Plan Amendment and the proposed state Medicaid reforms are an ideal way to start.

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© 2022 ICAN! All rights reserved.

© 2022 ICAN! All rights reserved.