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Lawmakers Weigh Governor's Bill To Allow Birth Control Without Prior Prescription

John Pemble/IPR file photo
Gov. Kim Reynolds

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to allow Iowans to get some forms of birth control directly from a pharmacist without going to a doctor first has an uncertain future at the statehouse.

The bill would allow specially trained pharmacists to dispense up to a one-year supply of some forms of birth control, and would require insurance to cover it.

Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta) chairs the House Human Resources Committee. She said Wednesday Republicans on the committee are discussing the proposal, a priority of the governor.

“Anything she sends to us, we’re going to give careful consideration to,” Lundgren said. “It’s certainly not off the table, but we’ve got to work through the process and make sure all of our questions are answered, and that it is a safe and effective way for women to get their birth control.”

Reynolds’ bill would allow Iowans 18 and older to get birth control pills, contraceptive patches and vaginal rings without first visiting a clinic. That’s after they turn in a health risk assessment and receive medical advice from the pharmacist. If the pharmacist has concerns about the patient’s medical history, the patient would have to go to a doctor for a prescription.

Reynolds first said she would support this last fall during a debate a few weeks before Election Day. She said she has consulted with the governor of Utah, where the Republican-controlled legislature passed a similar proposal.

Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa, said Reynolds’ proposal is good, and she hopes it will increase access to contraceptives in Iowa.

In 2017, Reynolds supported a Republican-led change to the state’s family planning program that led to a sharp decline in government-provided services, including birth control.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames) said Democrats are open to the proposal. She said it’s a good first step, but she still has concerns about a lack of other services like cancer and STD screenings.

“This is great to provide some access to birth control,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “But family planning includes a lot more than just birth control, so we need that kind of access also.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter