INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, called for better access to birth control on the House floor Monday before the chamber passed House Bill 1577, which further tightens the state’s abortion laws.
“We can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and therefore abortions, if women have more access to birth control,” Fleming said. “I am advocating for women who need better access to contraceptives so they don’t have to face the heavy choice of terminating their pregnancy.”
Fleming, a retired obstetrician, has spoken extensively on making birth control accessible, especially in drug treatment centers. For two legislative sessions now, she has tried to pass a bill to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, which has received support from both sides of the aisle. She filed an amendment to House Bill 1468 with the same goal, but it was not heard.
“It is the ultimate hypocrisy to oppose abortion and then deny access to safe, reliable birth control,” Fleming said. “We continue to regulate abortions and restrict women’s choices, but we don’t address the root of the problem. We wouldn’t be having these bills if we had better access to birth control.”
Fleming’s proposal would have designed a triangle of communication between the patient, the pharmacist and the health care provider. The patient can go to a pharmacist for a birth control prescription, the pharmacist can conduct health screenings for contraindications, such as a blood pressure test, and can also recommend a health care provider.
Other states, including Tennessee, Idaho and Utah, have passed similar legislation for increased birth control access.
“This is a very safe and practical way to get birth control,” Fleming said. “Health care providers have done a great job, especially during this pandemic, to provide online consultation, but if pharmacists can prescribe birth control, women can walk down the block to their local pharmacy and receive a health screening that will better inform what birth control method she needs. It’s smart and convenient.”
In 2019, there were 7,637 terminated pregnancies in the state. Nearly half — 49% — of pregnancies among Hoosier women are unintended.
Fleming has championed women’s health as a state legislator and years before that as an obstetrician and nurse practitioner.