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Legislature Considers Expanding Family Planning Services To More Utahns

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A legislative committee showed support for a bill that would extend family planning resources to 10,000 low-income Utahns. 

Utah State Sen. Derek Kitchen says Senate Bill 74 could prevent more than 2,000 unintended pregnancies, 730 abortions and 410 miscarriages in the state. The legislation would require the Utah Department of Health to request a Medicaid waiver to expand family planning resources to people making up to 250% of the federal poverty level. For a single adult household, that’s an income of about $32,000 per year.

Those family planning services would include counseling and contraception—not abortion. Kitchen, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, says his intent is to be proactive in policy making.

“Increasing access to family planning leads to increased educational attainment, higher wages and greater labor force participation for both men and for women," Kitchen said. "This, in turn, improves their lifelong earnings and the living conditions for their children.”

Under the recent full Medicaid expansion, Utahns who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level have family planning covered through their Medicaid benefits. Kitchen’s bill requests the federal Medicaid program covers 90% of the costs, while the state takes on 10%. He says other states that have expanded family planning services this way save taxpayers $7 for every $1 spent by the state.

Stacy Stanford is the health policy analyst for Utah Health Policy Project, the organization that led the charge on the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative that voters approved in 2018. Stanford called SB 74
“family focused” and says it would particularly help low income women and even more so those who experience racial and other social injustices.

“This would greatly benefit those who have just climbed out of poverty and those kind of teetering on the edge," Stanford said. "One financial crisis away of slipping back in.”

Mary Taylor, president of Pro-life Utah, says the organization is not taking a position on Kitchen’s bill. Taylor says family planning is important, but SB 74 might not be the best way to provide funding for those resources. In 2019, Planned Parenthood of Utah withdrew from the Title X federal family planning program, after the Trump administration prohibited organizations receiving Title X funding from referring patients for abortion. Planned Parenthood of Utah received $2 million in funding through the program.

“There are currently efforts and legislation underway to bring those funds back into Utah, and that may be a consideration in this situation,” Taylor said. 

SB 74 passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee on a four-to-one vote. It now goes before the full Senate for consideration.