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Agata Pelka

Agata Pelka - 2016 Nominee
Position: Staff Attorney
Organization: National Health Law Program
Agata is a gifted lawyer who works tirelessly to ensure women in the US have access to all reproductive health options. She is committed to finding creative ways to expand insurance coverage so that all women can control their reproductive destinies. – Erica Pettigrew, MD/JD at Oregon Health & Science University
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I address emerging issues in abortion and contraceptive coverage in Medicaid and private insurance at the National Health Law Program, a public interest law firm working to protect and advance the health rights of low-income and underserved individuals. I support grassroots efforts to lift the Hyde Amendment, engage in administrative advocacy to implement Affordable Care Act requirements—in particular, pushing for robust contraceptive coverage without cost sharing in private insurance—and provide technical assistance to state advocates addressing insurance coverage gaps. I also serve on the board of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, which trains and mobilizes law students and new lawyers across the country to foster legal expertise and support the realization of reproductive justice.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

In high school, I worked on a project on abstinence-only education. I researched inaccurate, judgmental, and hetero-normative sexual education curricula that reinforced gender stereotypes. I was angry that adults were lying to young people about such an important part of their physical and emotional health. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that such tactics were not only reserved for young people but many people who need access to family planning. This frustration has continued to fuel my work.

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

The biggest challenge I seek to address is that reproductive health care—particularly abortion care—continues to be singled out and treated differently than other comparable medical care in insurance coverage. This is prevalent both in public and private coverage and has the most severe impact on low-income individuals and people of color. I am committed to monitor and push back against efforts to cover reproductive health services less favorably than any other medical care.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I want to increase insurance coverage of reproductive health care and make sure that coverage is accessible and easy to use. While the ACA has expanded coverage opportunities, there are still many structural challenges to enrollment and use of insurance. When I worked on an abortion fund, I would speak with many women who were eligible for Medicaid or assistance but were not enrolled in coverage. I want to ensure that all individuals have meaningful access to the coverage they are entitled to.

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