Medicaid Policy on Sterilization — Anachronistic or Still Relevant?

Borrero, Sonya
Zite, Nikki
Potter, Joseph E.
Trussell, James
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Female sterilization, typically accomplished by means of tubal ligation, is a widely used method of contraception that is highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancy. Yet there appears to be unmet demand for the procedure in certain segments of the U.S. population. Specifically, low-income women and women from minority racial and ethnic groups may face substantial system-level barriers to obtaining a desired sterilization procedure. One such barrier is the federal policy regarding Medicaid-funded sterilizations. Although this policy was designed to protect vulnerable populations, we believe that it does not effectively fulfill that intention — in fact, it restricts the reproductive autonomy of the women it intends to serve. With the upcoming Medicaid expansions, the number of women affected by these barriers could increase substantially.