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Indiana lawmakers consider bill to expand contraception access



Indianapolis, Indiana – A number of months after the passage of a law that prohibits nearly all abortions, lawmakers in Indiana are attempting to broaden access to various methods of birth control.

Under House Bill 1568, people would be able to obtain birth control pills and patches from their local pharmacists rather than through their physicians.

During the special session that took place the previous summer, a proposal that was quite similar to this one was presented as a House amendment. It was defeated by a single vote after a number of members stated their desire for the legislation to be subjected to additional scrutiny before they would vote in support of the plan.

Legislators who support the contraception bill say there is rising momentum behind the legislation, despite the fact that the near-total abortion ban is still on hold.

“We started really talking about ways to make sure that we would get to a point where we didn’t have unintended/unwanted pregnancies, and better access to birth control seemed like a no-brainer,” said State Rep. Elizabeth Rowray (R-Yorktown), the bill’s author.

Patients would be required to be at least 18 years old and to return for a follow-up visit to check for any potential adverse effects under the new legislation.

“Rural areas may have a pharmacy but they may not have an OB/GYN practice or even a primary care physician in their area,” Rowray said.

“How many doctors’ offices are open in the evening, Saturday, Sunday or holidays?” said State Rep. Rita Fleming, (D-Jeffersonville), a co-author on the bill.

Fleming, an obstetrician, and gynecologist who is now retired have been an advocate for the concept for a number of years.

“I think that a developing awareness of the need for greater access to contraceptives finally drove this to the forefront,” Fleming said.

According to the Indiana Pharmacy Association, a total of 24 states and the District of Columbia now permit pharmacists to provide birth control to their patients.

“Pharmacists are going to be receiving the same training using the same standards that other health care providers use to prescribe contraception,” said Veronica Vernon, president of the Indiana Pharmacy Association, who testified in support of the measure.

Nevertheless, there were many who voiced their concerns at the committee hearing on the measure on Tuesday. According to Dr. Andreia Alexander, who works in emergency medicine, the Indiana State Medical Association wants to see some restrictions put into place. One of these restrictions would limit the number of times that a pharmacist can administer birth control to a single patient.

“Patients receive the highest quality of care when a physician is involved with their care,” Dr. Alexander told the committee.

The vote on the bill is anticipated to take place in the House Public Health committee the following week.