Photo credit: Amalthea Aelwyn 2017
So far, this year has been unlike any other. We have witnessed a new administration take hold of the White House, one that is no friend to reproductive freedom and justice. Yet simultaneously, we’ve been watching something else grab hold of our country, too: the resistance. In the spirit of change, we at Women’s Health have decided to do something we’ve never done before: we’re starting a blog! We will keep you up to date with what is going on in the world of reproductive justice and what you can do about it. Together, we have the power to mobilize change in our communities, our country, and our world.
We want to start with a bill awaiting review in the Colorado State Legislature: House Bill 1186. On March 16, Women’s Health participated in Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day at the State Capitol. Along with our partners in the Colorado Reproductive Freedom Coalition and concerned constituents from around the state, we urged our elected officials to support HB1186: Health Coverage Prescription Contraceptives Supply. This bill would allow women on private health insurance plans to pick up a full 12 months of their monthly birth control (the pill or the patch), or a 3-month supply of the vaginal ring.
House Bill 1186 would be a significant step in increasing birth control access for women across Colorado. Getting to the pharmacy every 28 days can pose a problem for many women. Those who are without transportation or childcare, who live in rural areas of the state or long distances from the nearest pharmacy, who work irregular hours, who plan to travel or live out of the country for an extended period of time, or other similar situations simply cannot always pick up their prescription on time. And mIssing even a day or two of pills increases a woman’s risk of unintended pregnancy. Having a supply on hand has been proven effective in reducing gaps in contraceptive use. A study from the University of California at San Francisco showed that access to a full 12-month supply of birth control reduced the odds of pregnancy by a staggering 30%, and further decreased abortion by 46%.
HB1186 was passed by the House on March 21. But days later, Senate leaders assigned the bill to the Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, also known as the “kill committee,” where progressive bills go to die. Alternatively, the contraceptive bill could have been assigned to the more appropriate Health & Human Services committee, where it would have had a better chance of a fair hearing, but it was not. This session alone, we have seen progressive bills such as HB1156, banning “conversion” therapy for gay youth, and HB122, which would have made it easier for transgender folks to update their birth certificates, get assigned to the kill committee, ensuring they will not pass.
What’s the lesson here? For progress to be made, we must do our best to be aware of state legislation just as much as we pay attention to national news. Perhaps constituent pressure could have persuaded Senate President Kevin Grantham to send HB1186 to Health & Human Services. Regardless, let’s not leave it to chance. Use this link to find a complete list of your national and local representatives and sign up for their email lists to stay up to date on the bills they are trying to pass. Call them, show up to their offices, and testify on the bills that matter to you.
HB1186 has passed both the Colorado House and Senate and is now on its way to the Governor for his signature! Thank you to everyone who attended Lobby Day or contacted their state legislators and helped turn this bill into law in Colorado!
 The Guttmacher Institute, In Brief: Improving Contraceptive Use in the United States 2 (2008).