Two States Could Soon Bolster Birth Control Access

Lifting birth control restrictions has been shown to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

Lifting birth control restrictions has been shown to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. Shutterstock

Women in California and Washington state could receive up to a year’s supply of birth control at a time under measures advancing in both state legislatures.

Washington’s Democratic-led house on Thursday voted 91 to 6 in favor of HB 2465, which requires private insurers to cover up to a 12-month supply of birth control, while a California bill introduced Wednesday would extend the same coverage. Both HB 2465 and SB 999 cover hormonal pills, patches, and rings approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Lifting birth control restrictions has been shown to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

“We all know that birth control is only effective when taken regularly,” Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett), sponsor of the Washington bill, said in a statement. “Studies show that when women need to visit a pharmacy every month or every three months, they are more likely to miss doses.”

Forty-eight percent of pregnancies in California and Washington were unintended in 2010, while the national rate stands at 51 percent, according to the most recent data from the Guttmacher Institute.

Requiring private insurers in Washington state to cover up to 12 months of contraceptives could prevent up to 26 percent of unintended pregnancies in the state, saving an estimated $4 million over two years, according to a legislative analysis.

A 2011 University of California, San Francisco study of more than 84,000 California women found a 30 percent drop in unplanned pregnancies in women with a yearlong supply of birth control, compared to those with the typical one- to three-month refills most insurers cover.

“Women who are responsibly managing their reproductive health should not risk an unintended pregnancy simply because a prescription ran out,” state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Calabasas), who introduced the California bill, said in a statement.

Oregon and Washington, D.C., last year required private health-care plans to provide up to 12 months of contraception at a time.

Publicly funded health-care programs in California and Washington already cover a yearlong supply of contraception.

“Passage of SB 999 would provide for all California women the same common-sense access to continuous and effective birth control that is already available to women in publicly funded health programs,” Pavley noted in her statement.

The Washington bill now heads to the state senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority. The California bill, which is sponsored by the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the California Family Health Council, and NARAL Pro-Choice California, will be heard in committee this spring. Democrats control both chambers in California.