Q&A with Meagan Kasmai
Blog Entry # min read
What started out as a school project is a source of change for reproductive health in Texas.
Q: Tell us who you are and what you do.
A: I’m Meagan Kasmai, I am a labor and delivery nurse right now in the Houston Medical Center. I am also a nurse practitioner student at UTHealth and I should be finishing in August. My goal would be to continue working in women’s health and continue working in an OBGYN setting.
Q: Tell us a little more about the IUD project you are working on?
A: It started as a school project and we worked on proposals that we would want to see in action and a lot of other proposals ended up being things that you would need public funding or a change in legislation. As I was working on this project, I gravitated towards women’s health because that’s what I’m passionate about. I found out that Colorado did this IUD project in 2007 where they provided free IUDs to teen women. Within the first year of that program, the program paid for itself. Eight years later, $5.85 cents were saved to every dollar spent on IUDs. What struck me so much in the first eight years of this project is that their teen pregnancy rates fell by over 50% and their abortion rates fell by 68%. I also found out that only half of teen moms end up graduating high school and have their children end up failing a grade in school because most likely they are trying to support their families, themselves, and their children. This on top of problems with food insecurity lack of insurance, lack of adequate housing play a role in their life.
This IUD project would mirror Colorado where we are able to provide free IUDs for women. I like IUDs particularly because they’re 99.9% effective. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends IUDs as it gives women so much more freedom in their education, their future finances, life choices, and goals. One of the main shifts in Texas right now is education on birth control and that’s gonna start in 2022 through the Texas legislature. Accurate information about sex education instead of abstinence-only education is great but education without access is an issue.
Q: What is the impact of the work you are doing with the Texas Women’s Health Caucus?
A: Hopefully it impacts women everywhere particularly minority women because they are 2 1/2 times more likely to have a teen pregnancy than their white counterparts. Most of that being due to lack of insurance and lack of access. If we could have a free IUD project, that would eliminate a big factor in that health disparity and hopefully, it will impact women all over Texas. It would not only affect people’s taxpayer dollars and society as a whole but more importantly, these women would finish high school and maybe go on to college, pursue a career that they want, or move. Whatever it is that they’re wanting to do in their life isn’t impacted by this one decision that most of us are making. Most of us are having sex before we are 18. That is just a statistic so if you aren’t able to consent to your own contraceptive care until after age 18, what’s going on before then because it feels like you’re mostly playing with fire. According to the Texas Women’s Health Caucus, every 22 minutes a baby is born to a teen mom. Most women who experience a teen pregnancy also don’t have access to adequate prenatal care. When you think about it, even if they do, they are pulling these moms out of school to access this care. There are also higher rates of prematurity that would affect the growth of the baby and the mom’s health.
Q: What is your hope for the future of reproductive health in Texas?
A: I hope that by the end of this, women are able to get pregnant and consent to their own contraception. I know that that is controversial when we are talking about pediatrics but this has long-term consequences and a lot of kids don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents about these things so that would be a big change that I would like to see. I would like to see the age of consent dropping in Texas. I think if we focus primarily on the prevention of unintended pregnancies, that could have a huge impact on women and their futures.
Q: What does the Own Every Piece campaign mean to you?
A: Women having the choice to own every piece of their life. Women having the freedom to make choices for themselves and having the access and resources to do so. It means women feeling confident about owning their education, their careers, their relationships, and their life choices because they have reproductive care and can decide when it’s time or not time to have a baby. Women should have the right to make choices that are going to impact their lives.