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Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce with nineteen of my colleagues the Access to Birth Control Act of 2014, ABC Act, which protects an individual's right to birth control by requiring pharmacies to fill a valid prescription for birth control in a timely manner.
Family planning is central to women's basic health care. Studies show that 99 percent of women will use contraception at some point in their lives. Yet, despite the prevalence of contraceptive use, women in at least 24 States across the country have reported incidents where pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control or provide emergency contraception to individuals who do not require a prescription. Furthermore, 6 States permit refusals without patient protections, such as requirements to refer or transfer prescriptions, and 7 States allow refusals but prohibit pharmacists from obstructing patient access to medication. It is Unbelievable to me that in 2014 we are still debating a woman's right to make responsible and personal decisions about her own health.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are required to cover preventive services, including birth control without a copay. Congress has an obligation to see that the intent of the Affordable Care Act to make preventive health care affordable and accessible comes to fruition and act to make sure that the pharmacy counter does not come between women and timely access to contraception.
The ABC Act would ensure women's timely access to basic, preventative health care and ensures that women of age will not be denied birth control or emergency contraception by their pharmacist. The bill requires pharmacies to help a woman obtain medication by her preferred method if the requested product is not in stock and protects women from being intimidated when requesting contraception.
Denying contraception to women represents an erosion of a woman's right to access to contraception and a threat to women's access to basic health care. Access is especially important for low-income women who may lack the resources to find an alternative pharmacy in the appropriate time frame and women living in rural areas who may not have multiple pharmacies near them. When women are seeking emergency contraception, a pharmacist's denial can be an unsurmountable obstacle to access within the limited timeframe.
Under the ABC Act, if a requested product is not in stock, but the pharmacy stocks other forms of contraception, the pharmacy must help the woman obtain the medication without delay by the method of her preference: order, referral, or a transferred prescription. By placing the burden on the pharmacy--not the individual pharmacist--the ABC Act strikes a balance between the rights of individual pharmacists who might have personal religious objections to contraception and the rights of women to receive their validly prescribed medication.
The idea that women would still have to fight for access to birth control is astonishing. It should be clear: personal health care decisions should be between women and their doctors. I'm proud to join with my colleagues in putting forward this legislation that will protect woman's right to access contraception throughout the country. A woman's rights must not be dependent on her zip code or State.
I also want to acknowledge the late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, who introduced a version of this legislation 5 times in the past. I am proud to build on Senator Lautenberg's leadership in defending a woman's right to make responsible and personal decisions about her own health.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to build support for this bill.
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