A new Maryland law set to take effect Jan. 1, 2012, could address health disparities among low-income women who are pregnant. The law could help 35,000 mothers-to-be in Maryland, many of them in Prince Georges County and the Eastern Shore. Previously, low-income women in Maryland had to give birth before they could get free family planning services at clinics.
Pamela Creekmur, Acting Health Officer for Prince Georges County, says this "Catch-22" contributed to Maryland's high national ranking in infant mortality and underweight newborn rates.
"Sometimes, if someone is not ready to have a child and go through with it, those are some of the other risks in low birth-weight babies and some infant mortality," said Creekmur. As of today, Maryland will now allow low-income women to sign up for free services such as breast and reproductive cancer screening and pregnancy counseling and contraception.
"Preventing pregnancies, particularly unwanted pregnancies, and particularly if they are among teenagers, is a very important element in addressing infant mortality," said Dr. William Flynt, CEO of Community Clinics Inc. Flynt says the reduction in unwanted pregnancies and births could reduce abortions and save Maryland about $30 million per year in health care costs.