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Arkansas Gets Failing Grade on Reproductive Rights

Arkansas and 18 other states get an F on reproductive heath care and rights. (Population Institute)
Arkansas and 18 other states get an F on reproductive heath care and rights. (Population Institute)
January 11, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas gets a grade of F for providing residents with reproductive health care on a report card by the Population Institute.

The Washington based advocacy group looked at access to health clinics, sex education, cancer screening and abortion services.

Jennie Wetter, the institute's director of public policy, says the numbers speak for themselves.

Arkansas has the highest teen birth rate in the nation, and she says part of the problem is in the classroom, because the state does not require sex education.

"It doesn't make sure that schools are teaching about condoms,” she points out. “It doesn't require any sex education, so kids aren't getting the education they need."

Last year, Arkansas had slightly more than 43 births per 1,000 girls age 15 to 19.

Arkansas taxpayers spent $3.3 billion in costs associated with teen childbirth from 1991 to 2010.

Nineteen states got an F in the report, mostly in the South and Midwest.

"It tended to be the states that chose not to expand their Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, states that aren't requiring sex education in their schools, or at least if they are, they aren't requiring an effective kind of sex ed, and states that have a lot of abortion restrictions," Wetter states.

Wetter says there has been a recent avalanche of legislation, both proposed and enacted, to restrict clinic access and reduce funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers. They’re often called TRAP laws for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.

"These laws are really designed to close clinics down, whether that is making them meet standards beyond what is necessary, you know, ambulatory surgical centers, or things that aren't really necessary to ensure patient safety but are really expensive," she stresses.

Wetter says most of the women who seek services at Planned Parenthood are below the poverty level and have no other option for reproductive health care.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR