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Birth control access for Indiana residents was approved by the Senate 28–20 and is now in the governor’s hands



Indianapolis, Indiana – Under a plan that state lawmakers forwarded to the governor on Tuesday, citizens of Indiana could have access to over-the-counter birth contraception, a move that supporters claim will stop unintended pregnancies in a state that banned abortion last summer.

Republican Senator Sue Glick, the bill’s sponsor, said on Tuesday that the state House bill is essential to granting women quicker access to contraceptives, particularly in regions where they have difficulty accessing basic care.

The bill was sponsored by Glick, who referred to it as “a furtherance of the bills we heard this summer.”

“We have individuals who have been referred to their primary physicians or to a primary physician. Many of them don’t go to the doctor, they can’t afford it or they don’t have access,” she said before the 28-20 vote. “This is an effort to give care to individuals who need it. It’s an effort to help these individuals have healthy families at their time.”

Depending on GOP Governor Eric Holcomb’s approval, pharmacists may be paid for Medicaid patients’ services. Additionally, they would be permitted to object to the prescription of the drugs on the basis of “ethical, moral, or religious grounds.”

The length of a prescription is limited to six months, and after a year, a woman cannot be prescribed a contraceptive “unless the woman has been seen by a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant”

“If you are against abortion, you ought to be for contraceptives,” Republican Sen. Vaneta Becker said before voting for the bill.

Republican Sen. Tyler Johnson claimed that the bill “unambiguously lowers the standard of care” for opponents who want birth control to only be administered by doctors. The emergency physician also questioned if birth control availability would reduce abortions in Indiana.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that advocates for abortion rights, state legislators across the United States have sponsored at least 30 legislation pertaining to the availability of over-the-counter birth control this year.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat from New Jersey, passed a measure enabling women in the state to obtain various hormonal contraceptives without a prescription earlier this year. In May, that law becomes operative.

The state’s abortion restriction is still in effect while the Indiana legislature looks for ways to increase access to contraceptives, pending a ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court. Operators of abortion clinics filed a lawsuit in opposition to the prohibition, which has not been put into effect since September.

However, the movement for pharmacist-prescribed birth control surfaced in Indiana before this year. Most recently, Democratic Rep. Rita Fleming introduced an amendment with such language into a spending bill for low-income women and children that lawmakers advanced alongside the abortion ban this summer.

By one vote, that amendment failed to pass.

“We were awfully close then,” Fleming told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “I think the good of providing this for women in a safe manner is incredibly important.”

A bill that might allow the transfer of long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as intrauterine devices, between Medicaid patients, earlier on Tuesday was unanimously approved by a House committee.

According to the bill, which now advances to the entire House, a medical provider might reissue the contraception to a different patient if a Medicaid patient does not return for an insertion appointment for a device they ordered after 12 weeks.

Due to the expensive cost of the implant devices, providers do not frequently keep them on the shelf, leaving “thousands of dollars of these unclaimed,” according to Democratic Sen. Shelli Yoder, the bill’s sponsor, on Tuesday.

“Health care providers are only able to recoup that cost after it’s inserted or implanted,” she said. “The only thing they can do is wait. And if they expire, they throw them away.”

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