House passes contraception bill, which now goes to the Senate

Vote tally on the bill to allow women to get up to a year's worth of prescription contraceptives.

JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — The Alaska House on Monday passed a contraception bill that will allow women to get up to a year’s supply of prescription birth control pills and require insurance companies to pay for them.

Several House members objected to the bill, saying its directives infringed on the freedoms of businesses and religious institutions to provide health-care coverage.

But supporters said it would help women, especially in rural areas, get the birth control they need, and would reduce a form of domestic violence they called “contraceptive coercion” in which a domestic partner or a parent refuses to allow a woman to get the contraceptives she needs. The supporters, including the bill’s author, Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, also said it would save the state nearly $1.5 million a year in Medicaid costs for the healthcare of unwanted children.

The bill, House Bill 25, passed 21-17, with two members of the 18-member House minority absent. It now goes on to the Senate.

A bill needs 21 votes to pass in the House, and one member of the 22-member House majority, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican, voted against it.

Speaking against the bill, Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, said, “I do not believe we should be using the power of the state to mandate prescriptions and a free years supply of drugs, which may actually result in the destruction of human tissue.”

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, said the bill hurts individual liberties.

“Why are you making everyone pay for something that they're probably not going to have just so someone else can have that procedure a little cheaper,” Eastman said. “I think that's wrong. That doesn't move us in the direction of freedom or liberty, that moves us in the direction of slavery.”

But Claman said the bill would help women and save the state money.

“In the end, this is about affordable access to healthcare, it’s about saving the state money, it’s about preventing domestic violence, but it’s the privacy rights in life, and people’s lives.”

And Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, rejected the idea that the state shouldn’t get involved.

“The state should intervene. There's a public health reason that the state has a reason to intervene on this and do what we can to make sure that every child can be born into a safe loving home that can take care of them,” Tarr said.

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