Free birth control now offered by public health in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Access to free birth control is now a reality for women in Cincinnati.

A new reproductive health grant will test the waters of how well this will help low-income women meet certain health needs.

But it's also a move that's generating some controversy. The grant focuses on all areas of women's health, not just birth control. The free birth control is just one component.

It started in July and can be renewed for up to four more years after this year.

At Monday night's town hall meeting with Congressman Steve Chabot, there were plenty of people wearing pink t-shirts saying, "Stand-Up For Planned Parenthood," a group very much "pro" women's health rights.

A gentleman got up and made a statement about a potential link between the birth control pill and breast cancer and that generated a lot of boos.

"Contraception, the birth control pill, will now be offered free to everybody who wants it," said the gentleman who got up and spoke at the town hall meeting. "It's a known carcinogen."

The man claimed the pill was responsible for increasing the risk of breast cancer by 42 percent.

Dr. Elizabeth Kelly with the Cincinnati Health Department says that has not been proven.

"With the formulations we're using now, there's absolutely no link with breast cancer and it's been widely studied," she said.

Dr. Kelly is the Medical Director of the Division of Maternal and Infant Health, for the City's Health Department.

"We started out with some higher-dose pills, 50 micro-grams of estrogen," said Dr. Kelly. "Now, we're down to lower doses of 20."

Dr. Kelly said there is some speculated association with breast cancer, with the old higher-dose formulas, but those are no longer used.

She is excited about the reproductive health grant, because it focuses on the wellness of all reproductive-age women, not just teens, with screenings for cervical cancer, gynecological care, testing for STD's, counseling and contraception education, immunizations and free birth control.

"We see adolescents, and children age 11, 12, having intercourse and then we see pregnancies in women, adolescents, sometimes a little bit older, 13, 14, 15," said Dr. Kelly.

And with this new, nearly $800,000 reproductive health grant, parental consent is not needed, but strongly advised.

"Why should everyone in this room pay?" asked the man, of Congressman Steve Chabot.

Dr. Kelly said it's vital in a city with a staggering infant mortality rate and strong risk factors.

"Which is teen pregnancy, closely-spaced pregnancy, and unintended pregnancy," said Dr. Kelly.

Their goal is to help women plan for good reproductive health.

"So they can make decisions about employment, about spacing of pregnancy, about timing of pregnancy, about education, and about the economic reality of raising children," she said.

Right now, Dr. Kelly, Dr. Noble Maseru and Dr. Victoria Wulsin, who is the primary investigator on this project, are finalizing their collaboration.

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