Specialized family planning clinics in the United States: why women choose them and their role in meeting women's health care needs

Womens Health Issues. 2012 Nov-Dec;22(6):e519-25. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2012.09.002.


Background: Publicly funded family planning clinics provide contraceptive care to millions of poor and low-income women every year. To inform the design of services that will best meet the contraceptive and reproductive health needs of women, we conducted a targeted survey of family planning clinic clients, asking women about services received in the past year and about their reasons for visiting a specialized family planning clinic.

Methods: We surveyed 2,094 women receiving services from 22 family planning clinics in 13 states; all sites included in the survey were clinics that specialize in contraceptive and reproductive health services and were located in communities with comprehensive primary care providers.

Results: Six in 10 (59%) respondents had made a health care visit to another provider in the past year, but chose the family planning clinic for contraceptive care. Four in 10 (41%) respondents relied on the family planning clinic as their only recent source for health care. The four most common reasons for choosing a specialized family planning clinic, reported by at least 80% of respondents, were respectful staff, confidential care, free or low-cost services, and staff who are knowledgeable about women's health.

Conclusions: Specialized family planning clinics play an important role as part of the health care safety net in the United States. Collaborations between such clinics and comprehensive primary care providers, such as federally qualified health centers, may be one model for ensuring women on-going access to the full range of care they need.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Family Planning Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult