A Republican-controlled Senate committee on Wednesday widely backed allowing women to obtain a year’s worth of prescription contraceptives.
It was a somewhat surprising vote in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, a committee used by the majority party to kill unfavorable legislation. Similar 12-month contraceptive legislation failed in the same committee last year.
House Bill 1186 passed on a vote of 4-1. The only “no” vote came from Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins. Supporters of the bill expressed disappointment with Marble, who they hoped as a woman would have understood the “common sense” behind the bill, they said.
Republicans Owen Hill of Colorado Springs and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling joined Democrats in backing the measure. Hill was expected to support the bill this year, but Sonnenberg came as a pleasant surprise to backers. He had opposed similar legislation last year, when the bill died on a party-line vote.
Earlier this week, supporters of the bill expressed concerns that the legislation would die.
Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Senate Republican Leader Chris Holbert of Parker said on Monday that the bill would receive a “fair hearing.” They added that leadership does not dictate how members vote.
The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who was also a proponent in the past of state funding to provide low-income women with intrauterine birth control. For Coram, the issue is about the unintended consequences of an unplanned pregnancy, especially for young women.
“This bill is a matter of convenience,” he said.
Coram joked, “You may be wondering why a rural legislator getting up in years is carrying this bill. I’m far past the need for this personally. My most effective birth control seems to be my looks and my personality.”
He also quipped that without the bill, perhaps the legislature could look into free vasectomies for men. But seeing as the bill passed the committee, and is likely headed to the finish line this year, the legislature likely won’t be looking into vasectomy measures, Coram joked.
Several women testified on the convenience of a 12-month supply, which also leads to a greater likelihood of regularly taking the prescription. Forty-three percent of unintended pregnancies occur when someone takes birth control inconsistently, according to statistics provided during the hearing.
The legislation has already made it through the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 50-14. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
After an initial three-month trial, the bill would allow women on private health care plans to pick up 12-month supplies of their monthly birth control, either in the form of a pill or a patch. It also would require insurers to cover a three-month supply of a woman’s vaginal ring prescription.
Studies show that dispensing a multi-month supply of birth control is associated with a 30 percent reduction in the odds of an unplanned pregnancy.
Hill said he supported the bill as a matter of freedom and liberty: “If this gives people a broader range of choices, then by all means, I will support that.”