Oregon Is Taking Big Steps To Improve Women’s Access To Birth Control


Oregon is on its way to becoming the first state to mandate full insurance coverage of 12-month contraceptive prescriptions, including the patch, pill, and ring.

House Bill 3343, which is advancing through the legislature this week, would be the first law in any state to require full reimbursement of year-long contraceptive options. Currently, many insurance companies only allow for contraceptive prescriptions to be filled on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, regardless of the amount of medication permitted through a prescription.

“Prescriptive contraceptives are an incredible resource, but they only work if they’re taken consistently,” bill carrier Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-Portland) said in a press release earlier this spring. “We know that one important way to make that happen is by ensuring that women have access to 12 continuous months of birth control.”

Reproductive rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, have championed the bill for its strong focus on combating the logistical constraints that may hinder women’s access to convenient, safe, and cost-free birth control.


According to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, the average American woman wants only two children, which would require each woman to use birth control or other contraceptive practices for roughly three decades if they wish to remain sexually active during their fertile years.

Yet, according to a 2011 survey from Woman’s Health USA, 11.4 percent of adult women have identified logistical or structural barriers that have prevented them from seeking timely reproductive health care. These roadblocks can include lack of transportation to medical facilities and personal, professional, and family obligations that interfere with pharmacy hours.

Under the bill proposed by Vega Pederson, women would be required to take significantly fewer trips to a pharmacy or other medical facility for the purpose of regularly filling a contraceptive prescription — hopefully making it easier for women to easily access the birth control method of their choice. One recent study found that, when women receive a year-long supply of birth control, pregnancy rates decline by 30 percent and abortion rates decline by 46 percent.

“This is the most significant leap forward for reducing unintended pregnancies in a generation,” Mary Nolan, the Interim Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, said in a statement released this week.

Clearly presenting itself as a frontrunner in reproductive health, Oregon is also considering another contraception accessibility measure, House Bill 2879, which would allow for birth control to be purchased at a pharmacy on an over the counter, non-prescription basis. That bill was passed by the House on Tuesday, and follows in the footsteps of a 2013 California bill legalizing over-the-counter birth control. However, the state’s implementation has been slow, meaning that Oregon has the potential to be the first state to enact this practice if lawmakers act quickly.

HB 3343 now heads to Gov. Kate Brown (D), who is expected to sign it, while HB 2879 moves on to the state Senate.