Whitney Downard, writing for the Indiana Capital Chronicle (a great resource for following the legislature, I should add), has a good article about yesterday’s Senate committee hearing for HB 1568 which would give pharmacists the ability to prescribe and dispense hormonal birth control. This legislation passed the House by a vote of 86-12. It wasn’t up for a vote yesterday, just witness testimony. Amendments and a vote will apparently be considered next week. Some of the members of the Senate health committee, Sens. Liz Brown and Tyler Johnson seemed skeptical, citing concerns about maternal health and apparently questioning the proposition that physicians were less accessible in many places than pharmacies.
The point of this legislation is that hormonal birth control isn’t really such a health hazard that pharmacists can’t dispense it properly; meanwhile, it’s important and going through a physician presents what is probably an unnecessary hurdle.
Sen. Leising, not known as some sort of flaming liberal, was apparently supportive:
During their barrage of criticism, fellow Republican Sen. Jean Leising praised the bill for increasing access in her rural district – where she said just three of her seven counties had a hospital with OB-GYN services. Roughly one-third of Indiana’s counties are considered obstetrics deserts with few specialized providers.
A representative of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians who do not oppose the bill suggested what they regard as improvements: additional requirements for pharmacists, including: mandating blood pressure checks as part of the screening process, provider referrals if health issues are identified (either in the initial screening or related to the birth control) and sharing local resources to find primary care providers.
In addition to purported health concerns, a representative of the Indiana Catholic Conference alluded to what I suspect is the main reason for opposition where it exists: people having sex. Per this witness, “the widespread availability of contraceptives ‘further facilitated’ extramarital sexual relationships.” At this point in my life, I’ll just say: good. Sex is a very human thing. It doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. Marriage is too important to have people jumping into it just so they can have sex. Similarly, raising children is something we want people undertaking mindfully – not just stumbling into.