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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Bill proposed to expand access to birth control

    Groton ― State Sens. Heather Somers, R-Groton, and Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich, have proposed legislation to expand access to birth control by allowing pharmacists in the state to prescribe the medication.

    “Access to birth control is a fundamental right of women, and yet many face barriers to obtaining it,” Somers said at a news conference Monday at the CVS store at 915 Poquonnock Road.

    Somers said the proposal would make birth control much more accessible and convenient, especially to women working and living in under-served or rural areas. The proposal also would be especially helpful for women on a budget, and it would provide face-to-face contact between the patient and pharmacist, who are experts on pharmaceuticals. The bill would give women an additional choice as to where they can access their reproductive health care.

    S.B. 171 calls for allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control, according to a fact sheet on the proposal. The birth control prescriptions would be reported to the woman’s primary care physician.

    Under the proposal, pharmacists would take additional training and would have a collaborative agreement with a doctor for a standing order for birth control, Somers explained. Pharmacists would do a health assessment with the woman seeking access to birth control. Somers said pharmacists are highly trained health care professionals who are equipped to answer questions and provide counseling in various methods of birth control ― helping women make informed decisions on their health.

    Fazio said the bill is “common sense.”

    “It will provide women with more options, more access, and reduced cost to birth control,” he said.

    Fazio, state Reps. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, and Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, who are co-sponsoring the bill, Jig Parikh, pharmacy district leader for CVS in eastern Connecticut, and Janet Mattiucci, pharmacy manager at the CVS, also attended the conference. State Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw, D-Avon, is also a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation.

    Fazio called the bill “a bipartisan proposal” that has received support from Democratic and Republican legislators in Connecticut. About 20 states across the country ― both “red states” and “blue states” ― have made similar reforms.

    Mattiucci said it’s important to ensure that the community’s health care needs, including women’s unique health care, are met.

    She said roughly 19 million women in the United States live in a “contraceptive desert,” which means they lack reasonable access to health care that offers the full range of contraceptive measures. About one in three women say they have trouble getting prescriptions for birth control.

    She added that she has seen the challenges women, from young women to older women, face in accessing birth control: “People come up to this consultation window, and they kind of just pour their hearts out because they feel like it’s a safe place here,” she said.

    Overall, health care providers are overwhelmed, and it can be hard for people to get an appointment quickly, Mattiucci said.

    Somers said some rural communities are struggling to attract primary care physicians and gynecologists.

    “Connecticut is one of the states that really struggles to attract gynecologists and OB-GYNs,” said Somers, adding that there are very few in the New London area.

    “If you can find a PCP, it could be months before you get in, and then many times they cancel and they reschedule you because of staffing issues so why should we let a woman go without access to birth control during that time that she can’t see a physician?” Somers said.

    She clarified that the bill does not say people can’t see a physician and people should go right ahead and see their physician if they want, but the bill is intended as a “stop gap measure” for people who don’t have access to a healthcare provider.

    The bill is slated to go to a public hearing at a date to be scheduled in the future.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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