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House panel endorses birth control access at pharmacy counter

DES MOINES — A bill that would make contraceptives like “the pill” available to adult women without a prescription is now eligible for debate in the Iowa House.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced her support of the move in 2018 and the Republican-led Iowa Senate endorsed it two years ago, but key Republicans in the House opposed the idea.

If this year’s bill becomes law, Republican Representative Ann Meyer of Fort Dodge says women who show a photo ID to a participating pharmacist could get a three-month supply of contraceptives from behind-the-counter, then another year’s worth after that.

“It requires consultation with a primary care or a woman’s health care practitioner after the initial 27 months,” Meyer says.

Today, Iowa women must go to a doctor and get a prescription for birth control patches and pills. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames, a Democrat, says the bill will help women who can’t afford frequent doctor’s visits.

“This is a good step forward,” Wessel-Kroeschel says. “Since we lost the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver, many women have been really struggling to find birth control.”

Contraceptives wouldn’t technically be over-the-counter medications, so they’ll still be covered by insurance if the bill becomes law. It passed the House Human Resources Committee on a 15-2 vote Tuesday afternoon.

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