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Idaho bill to expand contraceptives access makes its way to Senate floor after committee hearing

Minority Leader Idaho Sen. Melissa Wintrow (D, Boise) at the State Capitol building on January 9, 2023.
Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun
Minority Leader Idaho Sen. Melissa Wintrow (D, Boise) at the State Capitol building on January 9, 2023.

A bill to expand contraception access in Idaho is making its way to the Senate floor after a public hearing in the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee Thursday afternoon.

Senate Bill 1234 would require that insurance companies provide up to a six month supply of prescribed contraceptives to enrollees. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said the bill would make it easier for women who only have access to a one or three month supply of contraceptives under their current insurance plan.

Wintrow said this is the fifth time this type of legislation has made its way through the capitol, and it is her third time introducing this kind of legislation.

Wintrow said she has made changes to the legislation to address the concerns of insurance companies, anti-abortion groups and fellow legislators who previously opposed the legislation when it died on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2022.

Alongside Wintrow, four Idaho doctors and one retired doctor testified in favor of the bill. The proponents argued it would reduce maternal mortality, help women with economic self-sufficiency, and help prevent unplanned pregnancies in Idaho under the state’s near-total abortion ban.

Dr. Abby Davids, of Boise, said that while insurance providers commonly authorize one-year prescriptions for various preventative medications, contraceptives are subject to distinct considerations.

“With the laws in our state right now, it is really imperative that women who want contraception have easy access to it,” Davids said. “You can get lots of defensive or preventive health care medications that most people are on chronically, but we are treating women differently with our current practices.”

Advocates for the bill also argued that it would alleviate barriers for college-aged women and women in rural areas, where contraception access is limited.

After almost an hour of testimony and in a five to three vote, members of the committee voted that it move to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass. One member, Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, was absent for the vote.

“I’m really impressed with the amount of doctors that are here today — knowing how busy your schedules are and that you care about this enough to show up,” Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, said. “Let’s face it, there are issues beyond birth control that this prescription is used for, and I don’t think we can ignore that. I think it is past time, and I think it shows respect for women — so I support the motion.”

‘It’s not the proper role of government’ opponents say

Three Republicans opposed the bill after hearing public testimony, including Sen. Brian Lenney, R-Nampa; Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Viola; and Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa.

Foreman said he appreciates the bill, but called it an “apples and oranges-type issue.”

“Is it convenient to get a six month supply? I bet it is,” Foreman said. “Is it a smart idea? I think so. Could it result in cost savings? I don’t see why it wouldn’t … But it’s not the proper role of government to intercede and jump between a business and a customer and say ‘here’s how things are going to go.’”

Lakey said that while he agrees that contraceptives are necessary, he would vote consistent with his previous votes on the legislation.

“I absolutely don’t agree with anyone that says if you don’t support this, you don’t support women,” Lakey said. “I’ve been doing my best to support one in particular for 37 years and will continue to do that.”

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This story was originally published by Idaho Capital Sun.