Washington, D.C. – Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led the reintroduction of the Access to Birth Control Act in the Senate. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Katie Porter (D-CA) reintroduced the bill in the House. Over 100 Democrats are cosponsors of the bill.
The legislation—which has been endorsed by 50 national and local advocacy organizations—would guarantee patients’ timely access to birth control at the pharmacy—including by addressing pharmacies’ refusals of contraception that prevent patients from obtaining their preferred form of birth control medication.
“Birth control is a vital part of reproductive health care and basic family planning,” said Senator Booker. “At a time when reproductive rights are under increasing attack throughout the country, protecting Americans’ access to contraception is more important than ever. The Access to Birth Control Act would ensure that all people not only have autonomy over their health but also have affordable and timely access to birth control.”
“Birth control is essential health care—full stop. And it’s health care that helps ensure everyone can control their own bodies, lives and futures,” said Senator Murray. “With reproductive rights under attack from every angle, we’ve got to stand up and make clear that no one should be able to come between a patient and the birth control they need—including being turned away at the pharmacy.”
“I am proud to lead my colleagues in reintroducing the Access to Birth Control Act to ensure patients seeking birth control can access their health care without unnecessary barriers or delay,” said Chairwoman Maloney. “During the Trump Administration, some health care providers—including pharmacists—denied patients care simply based on their personal views. Health care providers must do their jobs based on science—not ideology—and we cannot let this dangerous trend continue. I’ve been a fierce advocate for equitable access to reproductive health care for many years, and I won’t stop fighting until everyone can access the care they need, when they need it.”
“I am pleased to join Senators Booker and Murray in introducing this important legislation to ensure women are able to access their contraceptive of choice at the pharmacy of choice without fear of intimidation or harassment,” said Sen. Menendez. “This is a critical step forward in making sure we protect a woman’s settled right to access full and equitable reproductive care, including birth control.”
“Access to birth control is an essential part of women’s healthcare, and a pharmacist’s or provider’s personal views should not factor into a woman’s access to birth control,” said Representative Kelly. “Women’s healthcare is constantly under attack, and we must provide solutions to protect their access to care. I am proud to co-lead this legislation to ensure that every woman who wants to access birth control is able to easily obtain it.”
“Bodily autonomy is essential to social equality and economic security,” said Representative Porter. “Everyone ought to have the freedom to make their own health care decisions, including if and when they would like to have children. I’m proud to join my colleagues today in introducing legislation that will better protect patients seeking to make decisions about their own bodies.”
“People’s access to birth control should never be restricted by a pharmacy employee’s personal beliefs,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of National Women’s Law Center. “We’re glad to support this bill that will make sure everyone can leave a pharmacy with the birth control they need, without discrimination, harassment, or delay. At a time when extremist politicians are trying every way possible to take away our reproductive health care, it’s urgent to secure federal protections like the ABC Act. We thank Senator Booker and Representative Maloney, Chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, along with Senator Murray, Chair of the HELP Committee, and Representatives Kelly and Porter for taking action and urge Congress to pass it.”
“Contraception is a protected fundamental right and access to contraception is necessary for people to make and exercise decisions about whether and when to become pregnant,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder and President National Birth Equity Collaborative. “The Access to Birth Control Act will especially aid in closing the disparities gap for women of color who historically have faced challenges accessing contraception and medication due to systemic racism. Establishing certain duties for pharmacies to ensure safe and equal access to contraception is a critical step in protecting women’s sexual reproductive health and wellbeing. ”
“Birth control is a lifeline used at some point by 98% of U.S. Catholics to plan and support their families, manage health conditions, and achieve their educational and employment goals,” said Jamie Manson, President of Catholics for Choice. “It is dangerous and wrong for a pharmacist to refuse essential care based on their personal religious beliefs, because refusal compromises a patient’s health, economic security, and moral autonomy – all of which our Catholic social justice values compel us to protect. Catholics for Choice is proud to support the Access to Birth Control Act to ensure that people can get the care they need without delay, following their own individual consciences without obstruction or coercion.”
According to the National Women’s Law Center, pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control or provide emergency contraception over the counter to patients in 24 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the ongoing coronavirus crisis has exacerbated barriers to contraception access, with one in three women experiencing delays in obtaining their birth control during the pandemic.
The Access to Birth Control Act ensures patients seeking FDA-approved contraception, including emergency contraception and medication related to contraception, are able to access it in a timely manner and not be prevented from doing so by a pharmacy.
- If a contraception medication is out of stock, the bill requires pharmacies to either refer the patient to another pharmacy or order the medication, depending on the patient’s preference.
- The bill also protects patients from being intimidated, threatened, or harassed by pharmacy employees who personally object to the use of contraception.
- In the event that a pharmacy violates one of these requirements, the bill establishes liability for civil penalties for the pharmacy and a private cause of action for patients to seek relief.
Click here to read a summary of the Access to Birth Control Act.
Click here to read the full legislative text of the Access to Birth Control Act.
Click here to read the full list of Members introducing the Access to Birth Control Act.
Click here to read the full list of organizations endorsing the Access to Birth Control Act.