Exclusive: Lawmakers Push Ahead With Protecting Birth Control Access

November 17, 2021

Pharmacies play a critical role in maintaining access to reproductive health care, which is why a Democratic coalition of lawmakers reintroduced the Access to Birth Control Act, which would guarantee people not get turned away at pharmacies when trying to access birth control.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by the following lawmakers: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform; Sen. Cory Booker; Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Rep. Robin Kelly; and Rep. Katie Porter.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, approximately 64.3 million women in 2020 had coverage of the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods without cost sharing. But insurance coverage for birth control doesn’t fully guarantee access to it. Pharmacists in 24 states and the District of Columbia have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control or to provide patients with over-the-counter emergency contraception, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also exacerbating issues with birth control access. According to the bill, one-third of women have experienced a delay in accessing their contraception because of the pandemic. Additionally, more than 19 million women of reproductive age live in contraceptive deserts across the country.

Lawmakers introduced the bill to coincide with the annual Thanks, Birth Control Day, which recognizes the progress in contraceptive care available to people around the world.

“I am proud to lead my colleagues in reintroducing the Access to Birth Control Act to ensure patients seeking birth control can access their health care without unnecessary barriers or delay,” Maloney said in a statement to Rewire News Group. “During the Trump administration, some health-care providers—including pharmacists—denied patients care simply based on their personal views. Health-care providers must do their jobs based on science—not ideology—and we cannot let this dangerous trend continue.”

Despite all its resources, the United States has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies among industrialized nations. The Access to Birth Control Act is designed to remedy that.

The bill would ensure that folks seeking FDA-approved contraception, including emergency contraception, are able to access it in a timely manner and are not prevented from doing so by a pharmacy, whether because of supply issues or because a pharmacist claims religious objections to dispensing birth control.

“Family planning is basic health care,” the bill states in its introduction.

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