Empower Missouri is dedicated to ending poverty within our state. In our day-to-day work, we focus on three key areas: affordable housing, criminal justice, and nutrition access. It also means we have to look beyond those issues, to wages, systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, healthcare, education and more–including family planning. Access to reproductive healthcare is an anti-poverty issue. When families are able to decide when and how to add children, they are more likely to reach their educational and financial goals. All households should have the power to decide when and how they add to their families, especially those with fewer resources.
One really simple way our state can support households and individuals in making their own reproductive choices is with a policy called Continuous Contraceptives. This policy would require insurance companies to fill a full year of oral contraceptive pills for individuals who want them. Individuals would still need a doctor’s prescription for contraception, and would be under the care of that physician while taking the medication.
Reducing wait times for prescription refills reduces missed doses and accidental pregnancies. A 2019 study through the Veterans Affairs health system followed 24,000 women who were provided continuous contraception compared to their peers who refilled their medications every 90 days. The group with continuous access had fewer missed doses and reported 500 fewer unintended consequences.
Households with lower incomes and fewer resources are especially impacted by unintended pregnancies. Pregnancy complications, especially for women who work on their feet every day, can force expectant mothers into bed rest or more frequent doctor checks, resulting in lost wages or lost jobs. Even for smooth pregnancies, many low wage jobs offer little to no family leave, meaning new parents are back at work sometimes within days of giving birth. Childcare is an unattainable expense for low wage families in Missouri, costing over $10,000 a year in some counties. For single parents earning minimum wage, working quickly becomes unattainable. It is very clear how removing barriers to family planning is a smart anti-poverty measure.
Individuals in rural communities face extra barriers to reproductive healthcare access, which can also be addressed by 12 month prescriptions. Pharmacies may be farther from their home and may experience issues maintaining stock. Individuals may experience transportation difficulties where public transit options are non-existent. Continuous contraception means fewer trips to the pharmacy, reducing these barriers.
Senator Jill Schupp has sponsored SB 641 to make continuous coverage law in Missouri. It is currently stalled in the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee. Click HERE to urge Chairman Wieland to call for a vote to pass this bill forward.
Need help accessing contraceptives? Visit https://therighttime.org/.