Over the last few years, there has been a significant surge in education and promotion of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) throughout the mainstream reproductive health community. LARCs are reversible birth control methods that are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, last for an extended period of time, and once inserted, work without user action. LARCs include intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants like Nexplanon.
The National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) is encouraged by the tremendous progress made in the last 40 years in LARC design, safety, and efficacy. We strongly support the development of, and access to, the full range of safe and effective tools to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
We also support the provision of full and accurate information to help women make informed choices about what contraception method is right for them. And, we advocate for the elimination of financial, regulatory, and attitudinal barriers that prevent women from getting LARCs.
Yet, the NWHN is deeply concerned that institutional enthusiasm for LARCs threatens individual women’s ability to decide which methods are best for their unique circumstances. The NWHN cautions against the aggressive promotion of LARCs to the exclusion of other appropriate methods and in ways that infringe upon a women’s reproductive autonomy. We are particularly troubled by any threats to the reproductive autonomy of those who are often discriminated against, including young women, low-income women, uninsured women, and women of color.
The NWHN is particularly troubled by reports that providers and public health officials are promoting the use of LARCs regardless of the women’s independent sexual and reproductive health needs, desires, or family planning priorities.
While we continue to fight the rampant, on-going attacks on access to contraception and abortion care, we must also protect and defend women’s reproductive autonomy from coercive programmatic and provider practices. Every woman must have complete information about all contraceptives and be able to choose the method that is right for her without any cost or access barriers.
With our partners at SisterSong, the NWHN has released a statement of principles to guide the provision of LARCs:
We believe that women can and do make good decisions about the risks and benefits of drugs and medical devices when they have good information. We strongly support the inclusion of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs) as part of a well-balanced mix of options that also include barrier methods, oral contraceptives, and more. We reject efforts to direct women toward any particular method based solely on effectiveness at preventing pregnancy and caution providers and public health officials against making assumptions based on race, ethnicity, age, or ability.
We call on the reproductive health, rights, and justice community, including clinicians, professional associations, service providers, public health agencies, private funders and others to endorse the following principles.
To read the full statement, click here.
The National Women’s Health Network is committed to ensuring that women have access to accurate, balanced health information and services. Stay informed about this issue by signing up for our e-alerts, and by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Updated September 2016