More than 100 Democrats sign onto bill ensuring access to birth control
More than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate signed onto a bill aimed at ensuring access to birth control and preventing pharmacies from refusing to provide contraceptives.
Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday reintroduced the bicameral legislation designed to protect people’s ability to get Food and Drug Administration-approved birth control, including emergency contraception and medication, from pharmacies.
The Access to Birth Control Act requires pharmacies to provide customers requested birth control “without delay” and to refer patients to other pharmacies or order contraception medication when they are out of stock. It also safeguards patients from being intimidated, threatened or harassed by pharmacy employees who don’t support contraceptives.
Pharmacies that violate the law could face civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day with a maximum of $100,000 and a private cause of action for patients wanting relief.
The legislation has earned support from at least 121 lawmakers, comprising 99 House representatives and 22 senators. Fifty national and local advocacy organizations have also backed the bill, including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) proposed the bill in the Senate, while Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reintroduced it in the House.
“During the Trump Administration, some health care providers—including pharmacists—denied patients care simply based on their personal views,” Maloney said in a statement. “Health care providers must do their jobs based on science—not ideology—and we cannot let this dangerous trend continue.”
Reports of pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives have emerged across 24 states and D.C., according to the National Women’s Law Center.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it harder for some patients to access birth control, with one-third of women having seen a delay in getting their contraception due to the pandemic.
“With reproductive rights under attack from every angle, we’ve got to stand up and make clear that no one should be able to come between a patient and the birth control they need—including being turned away at the pharmacy,” Murray said in a statement.
Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. every year are unintended. Nearly two-thirds of women aged 15 to 49 are using contraceptives, according to the legislation.