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Several Republican-led state legislatures are advocating for women to gain over-the-counter access to birth control in what they say is an effort to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
State legislatures in Arkansas and Iowa, for example, are working on legislation that would allow women older than 18 the ability to receive birth control from a pharmacist rather than going first to a doctor for a prescription. The measures are seeing bipartisanship support in those states and come after similar laws have passed in nearly a dozen other states.
Arkansas state Representative Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on the bill after seeing “about a 15 percent decrease of teen births” after other states passed similar legislation. Arkansas consistently has one of the highest birth rates among teenagers in the country.
Pilkington said support for the bill “in many ways, it’s very generational. … I find that a lot of younger people and women are really in favor of this, especially mothers.”
According to the Oral Contraceptive (OCs) Over the Counter (OTC) Working Group, a reproductive rights group, more than 100 countries, including Russia, much of South America and countries in Africa, allow access to birth control without a prescription.
Women are required to get a doctor’s prescription to obtain and renew birth control in most of the U.S., much of Europe, Canada and Australia, according to the reproductive rights group.
Pilkington, who identifies as a “pro-life legislator,” said he brought the bill forward partly as an effort to counter unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The bill would require a doctor’s visit about every two years to renew the prescription.
Arkansas has a population of about 3 million people, a third of whom live in rural areas. Pilkington said the bill would likely benefit women who reside in rural areas or those who have moved to new cities and aren’t under a doctor’s care yet.
“A lot of times when they’re on the pill and they run out, they’ve gotta get a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor says, ‘I can’t see you for two months,’” he said. “Some people have to drive an hour and a half to see their PCP (primary care physician) or OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), so this makes a lot of sense.”
What Pilkington is proposing is not new. In 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed the idea of making birth control available without a prescription. Today, at least 11 other states have passed legislation allowing for patients to go directly to the pharmacist, with some caveats.
In October, ahead of a tight midterm race, Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds raised a few eyebrows when she announced she would prioritize over-the-counter access to birth control in her state. Like Pilkington, she cited countering abortion as a main driver behind the proposed legislation. The bill closely models much of the language used in another Republican-sponsored bill In Utah that passed last year with unanimous support.
The planned Iowa legislation comes after the Republican-led state Legislature passed a bill in 2017 that rejected $3 million in federal funds for family-planning centers like Planned Parenthood.
The loss of federal funds forced Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides health care and contraception for women, to close four of its 12 clinics in the state.
Since then, Jamie Burch Elliott, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, said that anecdotal evidence shows that sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies have gone up.
“With family planning, it takes time to see the impacts, so there are long-term studies going on to really study the impact of this,” said Burch Elliott. “Right away, we saw STI (sexually transmitted infections) and STD (sexually transmitted diseases) rates go up, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. As far as unintended pregnancy rates, we are hearing that they are rising, although the data is not out yet.”
So far the Iowa legislation has received some pushback, mostly from a few pro-life groups.
The Iowa Right to Life organization has remained neutral on the issue of birth control, but the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops of Iowa, and Iowans for LIFE, a nonprofit anti-abortion organization, have come out against the bill, citing concerns that birth control should not be administered without a visit to a physician.
Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for LIFE, also pointed out that oral contraception can be an “abortifacient [that] sometimes cause abortions,” challenging Reynolds’ motivation for introducing the bill.
On the other hand, Iowa family-planning organizations and Democratic legislators are mostly on board.
“Policywise, I think this is really good,” said Heather Matson, a state representative of a district located just outside the state capital, Des Moines. She appreciated that insurance will still cover birth control, but took issue with the age restriction, saying she would like to see an option for people younger than 18. “Is it exactly the bill that I would have written, if given the opportunity? Not exactly.” (VOA)
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The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has directed Pak TV channels to stop airing what it calls indecency and intimacy in dramas, Samaa TV reported.
A notification issued by the authority states that it has been receiving numerous complaints from viewers who believe that the content being depicted in dramas does not represent the "true picture of Pakistani society".
"PEMRA finally got something right: Intimacy and affection between married couples isn't 'true depiction of Pakistani society and must not be 'glamourized'. Our 'culture' is control, abuse, and violence, which we must jealously guard against the imposition of such alien values," said Reema Omer, Legal Advisor, South Asia, International Commission of Jurists.
"Hugs, caress scenes, extramarital affairs, vulgar and bold dressing, bed scenes and intimacy of married couples are being glamourized in utter disregard to Islamic teachings and culture of Pakistani society," PEMRA stated, as per the report.
The authority added that it has directed channels time and again to review content with "indecent dressing, controversial and objectionable plots, bed scenes and unnecessary detailing of events".
Most complaints received by the PEMRA Call Centre during September concern drama serial "Juda Huay Kuch is Tarah", which created quite a storm on social media for showing an unwitting married couple as foster siblings in a teaser for an upcoming episode. However, it only turned out to be a family scheme after the full episode aired, but by that time criticism had mounted on HUM TV for using the themes of incest to drive the plot, the report said. (IANS/JB)
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