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In Their Own Voices: Low-income Women and Their Health Providers in Three Communities Talk about Access to Care, Reproductive Health, and Immigration

Increasingly, access to reproductive health care is shaped by state-level policies, which differ vastly across the country. For decades, states have passed very different policies regarding abortion and family planning access, but since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, states have also varied widely on implementation efforts, most notably with their adoption or refusal of Medicaid expansion. Local availability of providers, particularly safety-net clinics that provide free or low-cost family planning services, is an important resource for low-income women. In many locales, however, there has been a reduction in the number of family planning and abortion clinics. The number of providers may shrink even further if the Trump Administration’s recent changes to the Title X program and restrictive abortion regulations are upheld by the courts.

While the reproductive health care safety-net has been changing over the course of several years, newly adopted immigration policies and enforcement actions issued by the Trump Administration have also played a role in lowering use of and access to health care in some immigrant communities. Safety-net family planning clinics serve a disproportionate share of immigrant families. To better understand the intersections of reproductive health care restrictions, state choice regarding Medicaid expansion, and immigration-related policies and actions on women’s access to reproductive health services in different communities, KFF held focus groups in San Francisco, Tucson, and Atlanta—three cities that differ greatly across three domains: 1) state-level health policies such as Medicaid expansion, Title X funding restrictions, and abortion restrictions; 2) availability and supply of reproductive health care providers; 3) immigration enforcement policies and practices.

In each city, two focus group were conducted with low-income women between the ages of 18 and 40–one in English and one in Spanish. The groups had a mix of women who were uninsured, on Medicaid or covered by private insurance. A separate group was held at each location with area providers, policy makers, and women’s health advocates. Methodology can be found at the end of this report.

In each community, women and their providers were asked about a wide range of topics that shape their access to and use of reproductive health care services. In this report, we summarize findings and highlight selected quotes from the focus group participants on contraceptive services, costs and coverage, abortion care, mental health and intimate partner violence, social determinants of health, and immigration issues.

Key Findings Report