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Governor's Proposal To Expand Birth Control Access Gets Initial Approval From Lawmakers

mariannette miller-meeks
John Pemble/IPR
Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) chairs a subcommittee at the Iowa Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

A three-member Senate panel voted unanimously Tuesday to advance Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal that aims to expand access to birth control in Iowa.

The bill would allow Iowans to get birth control pills and some other forms of contraception directly from a pharmacist without visiting a clinic first. Patients would have to complete a health screening, and pharmacists could refer them to a doctor if there are any concerns.

“We think this is a good step forward and adds to our ability of women in particularly in the more rural parts of the state to access birth control,” said Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa.

The Iowa Catholic Conference and a conservative women’s group oppose the bill.

Kathryn Kueter with Concerned Women For America of Iowa said she is not aware of any need for this change.

“We’re also concerned about the lack of accountability this bill provides since there’s no liability for the pharmacist,” Kueter said. “And we think there needs to be some accountability on those fronts.”

The Senate panel agreed to change that. They also agreed to include a payment to pharmacists who provide this service.

Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa, chairs the Senate Human Resources Committee and is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.

“As a doctor, as a former nurse, as a woman, former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, I think it’s a good policy,” Miller-Meeks said. “I think women are smart, intelligent, competent—they can make this decision once they’re given the proper information.”

She also said she would not support this proposal if she thought it would cause harm to women, which is a concern mentioned by the bill’s opponents.

The House is scheduled to consider a slightly different proposal Thursday.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter