Fleming: ‘We have to make hormonal birth control more accessible’

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Here in Indiana, the difference in outcomes between unintended pregnancies and intended pregnancies couldn’t be starker. Nearly 50% of all pregnancies in Indiana are unintended. When a pregnancy is unintended, women are less likely to access prenatal care. This can result in a cascade of negative outcomes, including more children in foster care and increased rates of maternal and infant mortality. As it stands, Indiana is one of the worst states to give birth, with a maternal mortality rate of 41.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. That’s third in the nation and entirely unacceptable. 

In addition to pregnancy being a dangerous endeavor in Indiana, our foster care system is broken. My own daughter is a foster mom, so I know that our system cannot handle even more children without additional resources. Children in need outnumber the families looking to adopt or foster by 2:1. Mothers and children need our help in Indiana to ensure their quality of life is maintained. 

In other words, the stakes are high when it comes to ensuring that more pregnancies in Indiana are planned and moms-to-be are prepared to give birth. Improving the well-being of mothers and children in Indiana is among my top priority as a legislator, which is why I along with my colleagues across party lines have proposed House Bill 1224. The passing of this bill will ensure that women in Indiana gain easier access to oral contraceptives as well as hormonal skin patches by allowing pharmacists to prescribe them. 

Oral contraceptives, or ‘the pill’ as it is commonly known, have been used since the 1960s to prevent pregnancy and the patch has been FDA-approved since 2001 to be effective at granting women the freedom to choose when and if they get pregnant. Both of these contraceptives are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. In addition to these contraceptive methods being safe, my bill proposes that the pharmacist undergo training to test the blood pressure of the patient to ensure their safety when taking their prescribed birth control. Using the woman’s previous medical history and prior experience with birth control, a prescribing pharmacist can prioritize her safety while she is on the pill or patch. 

Additionally, my bill would maintain our commitment to religious freedom. Pharmacists would be allowed to write prescriptions for and dispense contraceptives, with an exemption given to nonprofit religious employers. 

Many Hoosier women would benefit from the passing of HB 1224. Working women with no time to get to their OB/GYN after work, women in rural counties with no OB/GYN services for miles and miles, and women who lack the resources to access contraceptives would be able to access birth control more easily. 

As a former OB/GYN, part of my mission at the Statehouse is to prevent Hoosier women and girls from facing unintended pregnancies and, if an unintended pregnancy has occurred, wrap our arms around mother and baby and do all we can to secure a healthy pregnancy.  Any time we have an opportunity to expand access to health care, we should do it. This bill would allow countless Hoosier women to expand upon their family planning capabilities and allow them to take control of their health. The lives of Indiana’s women and children depend on it. 

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