The Iowa Senate voted for Senate File 513 on Wednesday, a bill that would allow a pharmacist to dispense hormonal contraceptives such as oral contraceptives, a hormonal patch and vaginal ring without a doctor’s prescription, consultation or an examination. Women would not have to see their physician until 27 months after the initial dispensing.
No senators spoke against the bill, though six Republicans voted against it. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City), Dennis Guth (R-Klemme), Jerry Behn (R-Boone), Mark Costello (R-Imogene) and Zach Whiting (R-Spirit Lake) voted against the measure.
Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) introduced the bill originally and managed the bill on the floor. She noted women use oral contraception for various reasons — regulating menstruation, preventing anemia, preventing painful and heavy periods and also acne — and she said the bill would provide easier access to avoid “unintended pregnancies.”
There would be an initial three-month prescription and then it would be refilled two times on an annual basis.
Senator Liz Mathis (D-Hiawatha) thanked Miller-Meeks for bringing the bill forward.
“It’s really quite a big day for the state of Iowa,” Mathis said. “I think women understand intimately the issue around access to birth control. This just gives us a lot more choices.”
Women can still see their primary care physicians if they wish or if they have trouble with the medication. She was also pleased to see the bill included Medicaid coverage.
Senator Tom Greene (R-Burlington), a retired pharmacist, said pharmacy students in Iowa graduate today with a doctorate in pharmacy and have six years of intense pharmaceutical training. He also mentioned 65 percent of graduates are women.
“Young women today need that access to care,” Greene said. “We talk about this issue a great deal on the floor here. It behooves all of us to do what we can to make sure that young women today have access to proper care.”
Senators Chris Cournoyer (R-LeClaire) and Carrie Koelker (R-Dyersville) spoke in favor the bill as well. Cournoyer said women should have access to affordable birth control and is responsible since it is done under the supervision of a pharmacist. Koelker referred to the bill as another layer of options for women in Iowa to avoid “unwanted pregnancies.”
Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) asked Miller-Meeks about potential side effects of contraception. Blood clots, deep-vein thrombosis, stroke and hypertension were listed as a few.
“Obviously those are all very serious potential side effects,” Hogg said.
He said he wants to make sure Iowans know that those risks are present.
Senator Claire Celsi (D-West Des Moines) had to go to the emergency room due to a reaction to birth control. She said she had pulmonary embolisms. But, she said, pharmacists are not doctors. She noted pharmacists can refuse women birth control for ethical reasons. She said the bill leaves out teens.
In essence, she didn’t feel the bill went far enough.
“On the outside chance that it’s going to help somebody get birth control, I’m probably going to vote for it,” Celsi said. “I have deep reservations about this legislation for the reasons listed. Women need birth control, so do men.”
Governor Kim Reynolds issued the following statement regarding the bill’s passage:
“Anything we can do to prevent unintended pregnancies, we should look at it. I want to thank the Iowa Senate for working with me to increase access to contraception for Iowans. The policy makes sense, and it’s the right thing to do.”