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House and Senate Democrats Seek to Protect Access to Birth Control Act

November 23, 2021 by Dan McCue
A Nurse Practitioner works in an office at a Planned Parenthood clinic where she confers via teleconference with patients seeking self-managed abortions as containers of the medication used to end an early pregnancy sits on a table nearby Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Fairview Heights, Ill. Women with unwanted pregnancies are increasingly considering getting abortion pills by mail. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

WASHINGTON — More than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate are urging their colleagues to help them guarantee a woman’s timely access to birth control at her local pharmacy.

The legislation, the Access to Birth Control Act, was reintroduced in the Senate Tuesday by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

A companion bill was also reintroduced in the House by Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Katie Porter, D-Calif.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control or provide emergency contraception over the counter to patients in 24 states and the District of Columbia. 

In addition, the ongoing coronavirus crisis has exacerbated barriers to contraception access, with one in three women experiencing delays in obtaining their birth control during the pandemic.

“Birth control is essential health care — full stop. And it’s health care that helps ensure everyone can control their own bodies, lives and futures,” said Sen. Murray in a written statement. “With reproductive rights under attack from every angle, we’ve got to stand up and make clear that no one should be able to come between a patient and the birth control they need — including being turned away at the pharmacy.”

The Access to Birth Control Act ensures patients seeking FDA-approved contraception, including emergency contraception and medication related to contraception, are able to access it in a timely manner and not be prevented from doing so by a pharmacy. 

  • If a contraception medication is out of stock, the bill requires pharmacies to either refer the patient to another pharmacy or order the medication, depending on the patient’s preference.
  • The bill also protects patients from being intimidated, threatened or harassed by pharmacy employees who personally object to the use of contraception.
  • In the event that a pharmacy violates one of these requirements, the bill establishes liability for civil penalties for the pharmacy and a private cause of action for patients to seek relief.

The legislation has been endorsed by 50 national and local advocacy organizations.

Click here to read a summary of the Access to Birth Control Act.

Click here to read the full legislative text of the Access to Birth Control Act.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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