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Region 5 Blog March 24th, 2023
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Consumer Health Minute: Reproductive Health, Reproductive Rights

Posted by on July 4th, 2022 Posted in: Accessibility, Consumer Health, Equity Diversity Inclusion, Health Disparities, Health Equity, Health Literacy, Public Health, Public Libraries
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Providing health information regarding both sexual and reproductive health is important to provide and make accessible to your patrons whether they request it or not. Stigma, along with shame or embarrassment make it difficult for people to ask for needed information regarding such topics as:

  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • birth control
  • menstruation
  • unwanted pregnancy
  • transitioning
  • rape
  • infertility

These topics are hard for anyone to ask. However, if you are a woman, transgender, a person of color, an immigrant or refugee, lack access to money, live in a conservative environment, etc. accessing information and services becomes even more difficult.

two women sitting at a table looking at a laptop together

(image from Pexels, Christina Morillo)

What can your library do?

First of all, become reacquainted with ALA’s Code of Ethics. Pay particular attention to principles 1, 3, 7, and 9 which address “equitable access to resources”, “privacy and confidentiality”, “unbiased and courteous responses to all requests”, not allowing “personal beliefs to interfere”, and “to confront inequity and oppression”.

As difficult as it may be, this is the time to set aside our own personal beliefs and values. It is important to remember that we are to serve all patrons equally and with respect.

Take the time to learn more about information resources that are evidence-based and freely available. Explore such resources as

WebJunction and NNLM (Network of the National Library of Medicine) offer free classes and webinars (often with CE credits or a certificate of attendance) on topics related to health and communities.

Attend conferences and look for sessions, posters, papers, focusing on sexual and reproductive health related topics.

Regularly schedule staff training to better address these topics.

In addition to educating yourself about sexual and reproductive health, think about ways to offer this information to patrons in the least embarrassing and most accessible ways possible.  Partner with local community services can make it easier and have a greater impact.

  • Tearaway sheets in bathroom stalls
  • Subject guides
  • Provide a list of local health and social services and agencies
  • Include local agencies and organization brochures and handouts in various parts of the library, including online
  • Collection management and selection of materials
  • Book displays
  • Book selections for reading groups
  • National health observances
  • Host expert speakers
  • Highlight topics and information in social media and newsletters
  • Incorporate in already existing programs/services

You and your patrons should be aware of reproductive rights and health privacy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently gave guidance regarding reproductive health care rights including rights to birth control and abortion services. HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra, also posted information pertaining to protecting patient privacy and using a personal phone or tablet.

For more HHS information to protect reproductive rights, visit ReproductiveRights.gov.

Making patrons aware of their rights can help educate, inform, and protect them. Your patrons should be encouraged to take their questions about the information provided by HHS and other information resources to their healthcare providers. Library staff should not interpret the information for them.

Image of the author ABOUT Carolyn Martin
Carolyn Martin is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for the NNLM Region 5. She works with various libraries and community organizations to increase health literacy in their communities.

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

NNLM and NETWORK OF THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE are service marks of the US Department of Health and Human Services | Copyright | HHS Vulnerability Disclosure | Download PDF Reader