On Monday, Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, filed House Bill 21, which aims to provide greater access to reproductive health care and prescription contraceptives for women across the state.
HB 21 requires health-care insurers, including Medicaid services, to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives and medical services necessary for those products or devices, according to a press release issued Monday.
HB 21 aims to give a woman access to the contraceptive method of her choice — including long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intrauterine devices and implants — without barriers related to cost or availability. HB 21 also requires coverage for dispensing up to 12 months of prescriptive contraceptives at a time.
“We’ve heard from women, especially in rural areas, that multiple trips a year to the pharmacy can be an insurmountable barrier in accessing consistent contraception, and that a one-year supply would assist many women in balancing their personal health with work and family life,” Rep. Claman said in the release.
HB 21 also attempts to address the problem of reproductive coercion, a form of domestic or interpersonal violence in which abusers dictate when and how contraceptives can or cannot be accessed as a means of gaining power and control, according to the release.
A review of nine U.S. studies recently published by the British Medical Journal found that between 8 percent and 30 percent of American women seeking family planning or other health care reported some form of reproductive control being held over them. The definition of reproductive coercion can include a number of different behaviors that range from emotional blackmail to throwing out contraceptive pills.
“This deplorable behavior and blatant disregard for women’s health and autonomy is inexcusable. Contraceptive coercion is a public health issue, and it is also a public safety issue. By giving women and families access to affordable and reliable contraception, we can help current and potential victims of abuse,” Rep. Claman said in the press release.
The first session of the Legislature will begin Jan. 15, and a number of bills have already been pre-filed including this one. Bills that are filed before the first day of the legislative session will be introduced and referred to committees before all other legislation.
• By BRIAN MAZUREK, Peninsula Clarion