A study issued by the National Institutes of Health reports significant barriers for women on Medicaid who desire tubal ligation. The study found that only 59 percent of the 1,200 pregnant women on Medicaid obtained the sterilization procedure after filling out the required forms. Medicaid recipients who want a tubal ligation must first attend two counseling sessions and fill out two consent forms at least 30 days apart.
Andrew R. Davidson, a professor of public health at Columbia University, commented “We as a society have tried to put in place things to protect [the] poor .... The incredible irony is that we’ve created barriers to poor people getting what they want.” The “bureaucratic and institutional barriers” were put in place after government courts found that 100,00 to 150,000 poor women were being sterilized, and many faced threats of withdrawn welfare benefits if they did not undergo tubal ligation.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that about half of all married couples obtain sterilization as a form of contraception with the aid of private insurance. Unplanned pregnancies among poor women rate as high as 75 percent. Many cannot afford abortions, which are not covered by Medicaid.
Media Resources: Washington Post - February 9, 1998