An estimated 180,000 women in Connecticut don’t have access to a health center that provides contraception, according to a press release from Power to Decide. More than 151,000 of those women live in the five counties that lost access to publicly funded contraceptives after the Title X Family Planning Program’s “domestic gag rule.”
The rule forbade Title X-funded health centers from offering abortion as a method of family planning regardless of what the patient requested. Although this rule was lifted in 2021, the harm was done. Access in the counties remains limited.
As it stands now, women are forced to go to health centers that specifically have contraceptive services, with many of these centers too far for them to get to. Many women in Connecticut, primarily women of color and low-income women, live very far from the closest health center that can prescribe birth control. Reagan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, and CEO of Power to Decide explains that “The challenge of covering costs associated with obtaining family planning services — such as transportation, child care and unpaid time off from work — may be too great a burden for those already struggling to make ends meet.”
These barriers pose a significant threat to women’s ability to decide if and when they want a child. Pregnancy and raising a child require a strenuous amount of both financial and emotional readiness, which only the woman having that baby can know when she is prepared for that. Discrepancies in access to contraception have lifelong implications for low-income people and people of color. They may be forced to go through with unwanted pregnancies, pregnancies they don’t have the financial capability for, dangerous pregnancies, and pregnancies due to rape and incest. All women should have the ability to choose what they do with their body. It is theirs.
S.B. 171 — An Act Allowing Pharmacists to Prescribe Birth Control Medication, a bipartisan bill currently in the Connecticut legislature, would expand access to birth control for residents of Connecticut by giving pharmacists the authority to prescribe it. This bill would empower women to be able to use contraceptives without unnecessary steps and wait time as they would no longer need to go to health centers with contraceptives services. They need only go to their local pharmacy.
This issue extends beyond contraception as well. Birth control is not always taken for contraceptive purposes: many women take it to reduce the extremity of their menstrual cycle, which can be quite painful and burdensome, and many teens take it to reduce acne or for other hormonal effects. This should not be limited by politicians whose decisions, unfortunately, do control our bodies. If politicians are going to have control over women’s bodies, they might as well do some good with it.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have already passed bills allowing pharmacists to provide contraceptive care. Connecticut should pass S.B. 171 to follow suit with other progressive states that care about a woman’s choice and women’s health. We must also be a leader for the states that have yet to pass a similar bill. Across the U.S., over 19 million women of low income live in contraceptive deserts. The more states that pass bills with this same framework, the more women are given access to their right to decide if and when they have a child.
Connecticut has already taken some meaningful steps towards expanding access to contraception. They expanded Medicaid to low-income adults, and they require insurance to cover many contraceptives and all contraceptive methods. We must continue these efforts by passing S.B. 171.
To get involved with the effort to expand access to birth control, you can find and reach out to your representatives here. Voicing your support for S.B. 171 is one of the best ways to help push this bill forward and eventually get it passed in Connecticut. The power of your voices make more of an impact than you might think.
Pia Baldwin Edwards is a member of the Yale College Democrats.