Plan First! offers free health services, birth control

A new program in Wayne County, Michigan, is giving financially strapped women access to free family planning services, health care and birth control. However, women should be advised to consider their birth control options even if they come at no cost.

The Plan First! program is an outreach by the Wayne County Department of Public Health and targets low-income women between the ages of 19 and 44 who are U.S. citizens or qualified legal residents, are not currently pregnant and are not covered by Medicaid or other family planning coverage.

The Plan First! program offers a wide variety of women’s health services such as office visits, pap tests, breast exams, lab tests, medications, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and sterilization referrals. It also provides women with birth control options such as the pill, the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch, condoms, vaginal contraceptive ring, spermicide, barrier method and natural family planning.

With birth control costing consumers as much as $50 a month, many low income women may choose to go without it and take their chances with an unwanted pregnancy.

“In today’s environment, higher education and a stabilizing career have become even more important to women and families,” said a spokesperson with the health department. “Controlling the timing of a pregnancy is one of the keys to a bright and promising future.”

However, women should carefully consider birth control methods before choosing one that’s right for them. While convenience and personal beliefs weigh heavy on a decision, so should the safety of the product. Birth control pills come with a sight risk of blood clots, but research has shown that the birth control patch, sold under the brandname Ortho Evra, carries a greater risk of serious health problems, such as blood clots that have lead to stroke and even death in young women.

While contraceptive patch maker Johnson & Johnson has shelled out millions to settle lawsuits from women who were injured by the patches both in the United States and Canada, the drug is still available on the market and prescribed to women.