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Time to step up on birth control access


Time to step up on birth control access

Mar 10, 2023 | 7:00 am ET
By Niki Kelly
Time to step up on birth control access
Lawmakers have advanced several measures to enhance access to birth control. (Getty Images)

When lawmakers passed a near-total abortion ban last summer in a special session, several key Republicans talked about expanding access to birth control as a companion piece.

Now is the time for them to back that up.

“We are going to work pretty hard on trying to make available contraception so we can have fewer unwanted, unplanned pregnancies in the first place. I think that is a good place to start,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray told the Reporter-Times then.

Abortion ban author Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, also talked the talk, saying, “We want to make as many avenues available to help these people take those steps to ensure that they’re not having unwanted pregnancies if they’re not able or if they’re unwilling to carry a child to term,” said SB 1 author Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange. “We would rather deal with it on the front end than … going to an abortion.”

There are several bills moving through the process that would genuinely help Hoosiers avoid abortions in the future.

The most significant is House Bill 1568, which would allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control to people 18 and older without an appointment. That includes contraceptive patches, as well as birth control pills and rings.

It passed the House with a strong vote of 86-12 and now is in the Senate.

The National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations reported in September 2022 that 22 U.S. jurisdictions have statutes or regulations that allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives on their own: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

More states have legislation in the works.

In several studies, women have reported that the primary barriers to getting birth control were long wait times and difficulty making appointments at their doctor’s office, as well as distance from their health care provider.

Letting pharmacists prescribe is a much-needed move to ease access to Hoosiers by reducing the hurdles to get products with long histories of success.

Long-acting birth control

Two other bills focus on long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs.

Senate Bill 266 requires Indiana hospitals to give women the option to place a long-acting reversible contraception shortly after childbirth during their hospital stay. The hospitals are not responsible for the cost.

Many women undergo a tubal ligation after delivering a child, and this is no different. Offering options shouldn’t be controversial but the bill barely passed the Senate, 26-23.

“It’s certainly a lot cheaper to have a long-lasting contraceptive than it is to have an unintended pregnancy,” said Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville.

Some have expressed concern about the cost to hospitals to have devices in inventory. But I don’t see how that is any different than having medication or artificial knee and hip joints on hand.

A second bill is Senate Bill 252, which simply allows a long-acting reversible contraception that is prescribed to and obtained for a Medicaid recipient to be transferred to another Medicaid recipient if certain requirements are met.

Sometimes a person doesn’t show up for implantation. Currently, the device goes to waste even though it is unopened and unused. It is especially important since about 40% of births in Indiana are paid for by the low-income health program.

Republicans have been loud and proud about their desire to protect fetuses and now it is time to focus on the preventive side of the abortion debate. Let’s help Hoosiers avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place.