As our legislators wind down this session and prepare to finish their work, they have a unique opportunity to help Arizona women.
And Arizona women need the help.
The Covid pandemic has disproportionately wreaked havoc in the lives of many women in our state. More women than men have lost their jobs, closed their businesses, and fallen into poverty. Domestic violence has increased. Women’s health is suffering as well, including their reproductive health. Maternal mortality is rising. Many women desire contraception but lack insurance or don’t have a health care provider.
According to research done by the Arizona Foundation for Women, “…reproductive health continues to be the most unfunded and needed health care service for women in the state.”
A singular piece of legislation cannot solve all of these problems, of course, but SB1082 is an excellent start.
This bill would allow women over 18 years old to access certain hormonal contraceptives at their local pharmacy without the need for a doctor’s appointment. It empowers pharmacists to prescribe contraceptive pills, patches, and vaginal rings under a standing order from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Women must fill out a health screening questionnaire and consult with the pharmacist prior to receiving these medications. The prescription will still be paid through the patient’s insurance if she has it. Similar laws are in place in 18 other states.
Studies show that self-administered hormonal contraception is safe and effective with myriad benefits. Let’s start with the obvious – the rate of unintended pregnancy is reduced, as well as the abortion rate. Birth control allows women to space their pregnancies as they wish, which improves maternal and child health. And it is literally lifesaving for women with serious medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes. For these women, an unplanned pregnancy can worsen their health; for some, it could be fatal. Contraception allows these women to prevent pregnancy altogether or to postpone pregnancy until their health improves.
Here’s the less obvious – access to contraception significantly reduces poverty as it enables women to enter and stay in the workforce. It improves women’s safety, by allowing them the economic security to leave an abusive relationship. And in addition to their use for family planning, hormonal contraception is useful for the management of heavy periods, acne, and gynecologic diseases such as endometriosis.
As obstetricians and gynecologists, we still want women to see their doctors regularly. But women should not be denied contraception because they miss an appointment or simply live in an area with less access to a health care provider.
The Arizona section of the American College of OB/GYNs strongly endorses this legislation, as does a bipartisan group of legislators. Introduced by Republican Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, SB1082 is currently awaiting it’s turn in the House Rules Committee.
We call on our Legislature to pass it. It would be a huge win for Arizona women, and for all of us.
Dr. Julie Kwatra is legislative chair, Arizona section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.