A Brunswick lawmaker’s bill to expand health insurance coverage for birth control has advanced for consideration in the Legislature.

Rep. Poppy Arford. Courtesy of Poppy Arford

Democratic Rep. Poppy Arford’s bill would require state-regulated health insurance plans to cover over-the-counter contraceptives. The Legislative Council last week advanced the bill and lawmakers will review it in the coming weeks. The impetus for the bill was the Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of Opill, which will be the first birth control bill available without a prescription in the U.S. Opill is expected to go on sale in the coming weeks; its producer has not yet announced what it will cost.

“My bill would continue Maine’s proud history of supporting access to comprehensive contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies,” Arford said in a statement. “Lack of access to birth control disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, young women and those in rural communities. This is an important step toward ensuring Maine people have full access to the resources they need to decide whether and when to have a family.”

Maine law currently requires state-regulated health insurance plans to cover prescription contraceptives. Eight states currently require health insurance coverage for nonprescription contraceptives, according to Bloomberg Law.

“While increasing access to birth control is not a solution to the ongoing attacks on abortion access and other forms of sexual and reproductive health care, it is a critical part of protecting our reproductive freedom,” said Lisa Margulies, vice president of public affairs in Maine for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in a statement. “Insurance coverage of the Opill will help ensure Mainers have affordable access to this medication as it becomes available for over-the-counter purchase.”

Evelyn Kieltyka, senior vice president of program services at Maine Family Planning, added, “We know that (birth control) being available on the shelf does not equal equitable access. … Every step towards equitable access to comprehensive reproductive health care options matters, and this is an important piece of legislation that will make a direct impact on the lives of poor and working-class people who want to access over-the-counter contraceptive methods.”

Last year, Maine lawmakers approved a new law that allows pharmacists to dispense birth control without requiring a doctor’s prescription.

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