Nebraska Gets Failing Grade on Reproductive Health

For the second year in a row, the United States received a “D-minus" in the Population Institute's annual report card on reproductive health, because of state and federal policies that limit access to contraceptive and other health-care services. Photo Credit: Fae/Wikimedia Commons

Eric Galatas

Public News Service

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska is one of 19 states to receive a failing grade on reproductive health, according to the latest Population Institute report card which tracks multiple indicators, including access to family planning and abortion services.

Jennie Wetter, the report’s lead author, said a woman’s ability to access affordable reproductive health care increasingly depends on where she lives.

“You have those states that are making sure that people are able to access affordable birth control, and access abortion care, make sure they’re getting comprehensive sex education – and states that are doing the exact opposite,” Wetter said.

Wetter said the state’s failing grade was due in part to laws that impose what she believes are undue regulations on abortion providers, and she noted that 41 percent of women in Nebraska live in a county without a provider. Defenders of the state’s so-called TRAP laws, which require infrastructure upgrades at abortion facilities, claim they are necessary to protect the health of unborn children and women.

Wetter argued that requiring abortion facilities to be on par with an ambulatory surgical center, for example, might sound like a good idea. But, she said, those sorts of upgrades are not necessary for a medical procedure widely considered to be one of the safest in modern medicine.

“But when you dig into the details of what’s required, you see that it is just requiring the abortion providers to do millions of dollars in unnecessary upgrades with the intention of putting them out of business,” she said.

Nebraska’s low score also reflects the fact that it does not mandate sex education in public schools. Wetter said many young people are not getting the information they need to make healthy decisions.

“They may not be learning about birth control, or they’re just learning abstinence only,” Wetter said. “So that puts a lot of stigma on things like birth control and condoms, putting them at further risk for sexually transmitted diseases.”

She said there is good news. Since Nebraska passed Medicaid expansion, its affordable access score should improve in next year’s report. She added that in Nebraska and across the nation, the teen-pregnancy rate and unintended-pregnancy rate are at historic lows, and are continuing to fall.