When it comes to childbirth, the saying goes that babies will come when they’re ready — but sometimes, we’re not ready when they come.
Couples and single moms who experience unintended pregnancies are found across socio-economic groups, but it’s the families lacking financial resources who are most adversely affected.
They can ill-afford the cost of bringing a baby into the world — hospital and doctor bills can be staggering, even with health insurance — let alone the expenses associated with raising a child to adulthood.
The health of women is compromised, too. Prenatal and postnatal care for the mom, even when complications occur, are out of the question when money is short and life complexities are plentiful.
State Rep. Rita Fleming, a physician from Jeffersonville, noted in a recent op-ed how Indiana is failing women when it comes to access to birth control, endangering their lives and often the lives of their child, in the womb and after birth.
Fleming referenced the Indiana Maternal Mortality Report, issued in December, which showed that among the 63 women with pregnancy-associated deaths, 23.8% had no prenatal care, and 28.6% had care only in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Improving access to birth control is a crucial step to improving health outcomes for Hoosier women, who experience unintended pregnancies at a rate of nearly half.
House Bill 1525, authored by a trio of Democrat women — Reps. Chris Campbell of West Lafayette, Tonya Pfaff of Terre Haute, and Sue Errington of Muncie — is a good start.
The legislation seeks to fill the gap when employee health insurance doesn’t offer coverage for birth control drugs and devices. HB1525 compels health insurers — as a condition of doing business in Indiana — to provide coverage for eligible participants.
The bill goes a step further, requiring Indiana’s insurance commissioner to “regulate rates for the birth control coverage to ensure that the rates are not excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory.”
That’s an important aspect of the legislation that will enable Hoosier women to better safeguard their health and actively engage in family planning.
But insurance coverage for birth control is only a first step in a longer journey to empower women with control over their own bodies.
Last year, Fleming proposed legislation that would have allowed pharmacists in the state to prescribe birth control, eliminating the need for doctor visits and improving access by virtue of pharmacy locations and hours of operation.
While the bill failed to pass, it’s the type of practical measure that’s needed. Lowering the cost of birth control is another.
Indiana can and should do better by its families and its women, who outnumber men in the state by over 97,000. Women who serve in the Legislature make up only a fifth of the governing body, though, so HB1525 will need not only bipartisan support, it’ll need multi-gender backing to succeed.