Chances Running Short For Birth Control Pilot

Feb 11, 2016

Credit Jason Corey via Flickr

Some lawmakers are pushing for a pilot program to increase access to long acting contraceptives.  But that proposal may be in trouble.

The Florida Legislature’s Republican majority passed an abortion waiting period last year and it’s working on a handful of new restrictions this year as well.  But a handful of Democrats, like Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) are trying out a different answer for unwanted pregnancies.

“The goal of the pilot program is to offer birth control to women with the intent of lowering the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions,” Joyner says.  “It creates a pilot program Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Pinellas to offer intrauterine devices and implants to participants.”

The pilot focuses on long acting reversible* contraceptives, or LARCs.  These come in different forms—small t-shaped or matchstick-sized bar implants that reliably prevent pregnancies for two to ten years. 

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade House sponsor Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) contrasted the approach she and Joyner are following with that of the GOP.

“SB1116 and HB947 safeguard a women’s right to choice and to control her reproductive rights,” Berman said.  “This is the kind of legislation Florida should be adopting, instead of the draconian measures proposed and adopted here in the Florida Legislature.”

So far Berman’s side of the effort hasn’t gone anywhere.  And it’s not going to.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee would’ve been the measure’s first stop, but it closed down last week.

Part of the reason the proposal isn’t gaining traction in the House could be how it provides LARCs.  Family planning services are already available through county health departments, but the contraceptive pilot directs the Department of Health to contract with outside organizations to expand access. 

Berman’s measure falling on deaf ears is perhaps less surprising in light of the House taking steps to block funding from heading Planned Parenthood’s way.  It’s certainly not the only family planning agency in the state, but it’s been an easy mark of late and it has been lobbying in support of the plan. 

In the Senate, though, Republicans have been more receptive.  Registered nurse and Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) is co-sponsoring the bill.

“Regardless of whether—what causes the unintentional pregnancies, we’ve seen a considerable rise in the last few years, and if we don’t pay for it on the front end we’re going to paying for it on the back end,” Grimsley says.  “And I just want to thank you.  I hope that I’m around long enough that I see this as a statewide program and not just a pilot.”

The Senate bill has one last stop before the floor, but it’s a committee controlled by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami)—one of two lawmakers to vote against the measure at its first stop.

Correction: an earlier version of this story referred to LARCs as long acting removable contraceptives.  The correct word is reversible.