The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We are proud to submit testimony in support of H. 7346, which would allow pharmacists to dispense contraception after an initial health screening. By allowing people to have direct access to contraception, we can close gaps in access for so many people and reduce unintended pregnancy.
We know that Black, Indigenous and other people of color historically face disparities in access to high quality health care. Low-income people also deal with unique obstacles posed by transportation issues and ongoing barriers to medical care. Immigrant women may also face the challenge of language barriers and culturally competent care – something that can often be overcome if they can instead find a local pharmacist in their community.
As a result, of systemic barriers in the medical system, people pushed to the margins are more likely to experience unintended pregnancy. When people are pregnant when they are not ready – especially when they are forced to continue a pregnancy which happens too often – we are looking at negative health and financial outcomes. The fact is that ensuring access to contraception is a critical part of helping women in our community to overcome these barriers and to improving health and economic justice.
A national survey found that 23% of women at risk of unintended pregnancy had a gap in contraceptive method use in the prior year that put them at high risk of pregnancy. Of these women, 5% said their non-use was due to a lack of time for medical visits to get a method. In a study on women’s interest in pharmacy access to hormonal contraception, 20% reported that the cost of a doctor’s visit was an obstacle to obtaining a prescription contraceptive.
Running out of pills and not having a pill pack on hand were found in another study to be common reasons why women miss pills. While we need to continue to ensure that cost does not push care out of reach, it is clear that many problems with access would be alleviated if the pill were available over the counter through direct pharmacy access.
It is important that we mention that we are not in support of the age restriction. Age restrictions for over the counter products are unusual and almost unheard of. Evidence so far does not indicate a compelling reason for there to be an age restriction for the pill if available over the counter. The same health questions and basic process to determine safety that would be implemented for OTC access works across ages. The pill is safe, and the prevalence of contraindications is actually lower among younger people. Another study found that women do not support an age restriction for the pill. It is important to provide the information and supplies young people need to make informed, healthy decisions and manage and control their body and future.
This bill will not address all of the obstacles to contraception and yet it is a bold and important step forward that we strongly support! Helping to streamline the process for getting contraception is part of ensuring that each person can plan their pregnancies and we can become parents or add to our families when we are ready.
If people are able to go to a local pharmacy rather than having to set up, get to and pay the extra costs of a health appointment, we are able to limit the number of people who are not able to maintain regular and consistent use. We know that low- and middle-income women whose work hours may not be predictable or women who live in rural communities face particular difficulty with these extra steps. By letting people get direct access, we can help to reduce disparities in health care and outcomes and increase opportunities to access contraception with fewer barriers, as part of a healthy sexual and reproductive life.
We are excited to be able to urge your support for a bill that is shown to be effective and helps support people in our community. We urge you to vote yes on this legislation with an amendment to remove the age restriction. Thank you.
Contact: Emma Gauthier, [email protected], 508-648-8180