ACT designed it’s newest “access” project to address prejudice and medically inaccurate advice given by providers at our local Federally Qualified Health Centers to young people throughout Tulare County. For a few years, ACT program participants have reported their experiences to ACT staff that medical providers continue to be dishonest and judgmental when asked about birth control, emergency contraception, and pregnancy tests. ACT program participants and the peers they have assisted have reported providers saying “you should wait to have sex” when asking for birth control AFTER a pregnancy test, or that “you can’t get pregnant on your period,” when asking for emergency contraception, later to find out the young lady did in fact become pregnant and is now a teen mom. In one case, where a minor was seeking confirmation of pregnancy and referral to an abortion provider, a provider told her “a baby is a blessing… you will become depressed… you won’t be able to have children later.”
In response to this injustice, ACT designed curriculum that would help program participants better understand the multi-leveled barriers to reproductive health care, from traditional education and cultural and religious norms, to basic transportation issues and even electoral voting behaviors that limit or expand reproductive health care access. Through the Clinic Access project, youth are trained to understand how Crisis Pregnancy Centers and gerrymandering affect access just as much as social taboos and lack of education. They are challenged to reach within and without to understand their own prejudices and those of their communities.
After they are trained, program participants “secret shop” local clinics with reproductive health needs to determine if clinics are providing teen friendly services and medically accurate care. Clinics are evaluated and graded as “preferred” or “not preferred.” The information is given to local school nurses for referral, provided inside “safety kits,” and a detailed letter is sent to the clinic why they passed or failed.