How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Senate Bill 845: A New Jersey Approach to Unplanned, Unintended Pregnancies

There appears to be a race on to see which conservative state can pass the most extreme abortion law in the nation. The immediate goal of these laws is to prompt the Supreme Court to consider the legality of each state establishing restrictions on abortions. The long-term goal is to overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

What is going on in various states is way over the top. In Alabama, abortions would be banned in almost every stage of pregnancy without exception including in cases of rape and incest. Further, doctors providing abortions could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison.

Some conservatives, like Fox News host, Tomi Lahren, are saying that the Alabama abortion ban is too restrictive. “It doesn’t save life. It simply forces women into more dangerous methods, other states or countries. You don’t encourage life via a blanket government mandate. If you think banning abortion with no exception for rape or incest will stop women from terminating pregnancy you’re not being honest with yourself. “

Fortunately in New Jersey we have elected officials like Senators Shirley Turner and Joseph Vitale who understand the complexity of this issue. They recognize that making it easier to access contraception will provide a myriad of benefits: re-enforcing women’s rights to determine the number, spacing and timing of children; reducing the number of unplanned births and the need for abortions; lowering the risk of certain cancer and reducing the billions of dollars spent by federal and state government on programs needed as a result of unintended and unwanted pregnancies.

Senate Bill 845 co-sponsored by Senators Turner and Vitale would make certain forms of self-administered hormonal contraception (SAHC) more accessible by making them available to adults and teen women at the counters of New Jersey pharmacies without having to go to a doctor or clinic for refill (just as is the case with condoms for men). The result will be fewer unplanned and unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions in New Jersey.

The bill requires that patients prior to obtaining a SAHC, use a self-screening tool that will identify risk factors for use of the SAHC. Further the bill requires a pharmacist to offer to provide counseling to the patient on other forms of contraception.

In the United States 6.6 million women become pregnant each year and roughly half of these pregnancies are unplanned. According to the highly respected, Guttmacher Institute, 53 percent of all pregnancies (97,000) in New Jersey in 2010, the latest year for which data is available, were unintended.

The Brooking Institute reports that 72.6 recent of pregnancies of unmarried women under 30 are unintended. Among women 19 years or younger, four out of five pregnancies are unintended. Unintended unwanted pregnancies are a major driver of Medicaid spending and poverty. In 2016, Oregon became the first state to allow pharmacists to independently prescribe hormonal birth control to consumers without a traditional doctor or clinic visit. Studies have found that during the first two years of the program pharmacists’ prescriptions for contraceptives averted more than 50 unintended pregnancies and saved the state an estimated $1.6 million in costs.

Senator Turner in her testimony before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senor Citizens Committee said: “When women have an opportunity to control the timing and size of families, it allows them to time to finish their education and advance in the workplace, which, in turn, allows them to be better prepared for the expense of raising children. A financial secure home will more likely reduce the tension and stress that affects the healthy growth and development of children. The economic benefits of increasing access to contraceptives extend to taxpayers, as well.”

Critics of Senate Bill 845 will argue that it will give women a sense of security that leads them to have more sex and doesn’t protect them against sexually transmitted disease. In other words, birth control doesn’t solve all problems.

It would have really helped Megan, 28, who was living and working in New Jersey and came to see Dr. Maria Sophocles, gynecologist from Princeton, for a termination of pregnancy. According to Dr. Sophocles’ May 13, 2019, testimony before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizen Committee, “She [Megan] had been on the pill but ran out and did not want to have to take a day off work to get her pills refilled. She called her ob/gyn but he would not refill her without an appointment. Now, as an ob/gyn I can tell you that not much happens during a visit to refill pills. I can tell that if Meghan had no contraindications to birth control at 27 it is very very unlikely that anything would have changed in her medical history and she really did not need to return to her doctor for a refill. Anyway, she did not want to ruffle feathers at her new job so she took a chance without contraception and got pregnant.”

Providing easier access to contraception (93 percent of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy) will reduce the number of abortions in New Jersey and reduce health care spending. For this reason, Senate Bill 845 should have broad bipartisan support.