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Sen. Lautenberg, Rep. Maloney Introduce Bill to Ensure Women are Not Denied Access to Contraceptives

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

New Study Recommends Birth Control Become Available Without Copays

Following the release of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report recommending that birth control be made available without copays because of its importance for women's preventive health care, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced legislation to protect a woman's fundamental right of access to legal contraception. Lautenberg's and Maloney's bill, the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act, would prevent pharmacies from denying the sale of contraceptives because of a pharmacy employee's religious beliefs.

"This legislation would prevent a pharmacy from interfering in the personal medical decisions made by a patient and her doctor," Sen. Lautenberg said. "Birth control is basic health care for women, and the recent Institute of Medicine recommendations highlight its importance to women's preventive care. By guaranteeing access to birth control, we can ensure that women are never denied the right to make responsible decisions about their reproductive health."

"Almost 100% of women in the US will use contraception at some point in their lives-- yet there are widespread, alarming reports that some pharmacists refuse to fill legitimate birth control prescriptions. This bill would place the decisionmaking squarely where it belongs: between a woman and her doctor," Rep. Maloney said. "That the Institute of Medicine has declared that health coverage should include FDA-approved birth control with zero co-pays under the Affordable Care Act brings new urgency to this issue. Including contraception under health care coverage is moot if a single pharmacist can thwart such coverage."

"Americans are fortunate to have strong leaders like Rep. Maloney and Sen. Lautenberg who believe in guaranteeing women's access to contraception. We are proud to work with them to advance this bill and other policies that make a positive difference in the lives of women and their families," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "This legislation comes as medical experts are recommending that contraception be covered by insurance plans in the new health-care system so that women can obtain birth control without a copay. The ABC Act would ensure that pharmacies fill women's prescriptions without delay or harassment."

"Birth control is basic health care for women. Women should be able to walk into any pharmacy, anywhere in the country, and get birth control, including emergency contraception, without discrimination or delay," said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "We applaud Senator Lautenberg and Representative Maloney for introducing this common sense bill to help ensure women have access to birth control."

Last week, the IOM released its recommendations for preventive services that women should get for free, with no copays, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Birth control was among the services recommended by the IOM as essential for women's preventive health care. The IOM report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as it determines what should be covered under the new health care reform law being implemented.

According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, 99 percent of women in the United States use contraception at some point in their lives, and 82 percent of women use prescription methods. Despite this, women in at least 24 states across the country have reported incidents in recent years where they have been denied access to birth control and emergency contraception.

The Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act strikes a balance between the rights of individual pharmacists who might have personal objections to contraception and the rights of women to receive their medication. The bill protects the right of individual pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription, but also ensures that pharmacies will fill all prescriptions, even if a different pharmacist has to do it. In addition, if the requested product is not in stock, but the pharmacy stocks other forms of contraception, the bill mandates that the pharmacy help the woman obtain the medication without delay by the method of her preference: order, referral, or a transferred prescription.

The bill is supported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Jewish Women International, National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Women's Law Center, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), and Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA).

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