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Utah legislators consider contraceptives for female inmates

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 23:16:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Legislators have moved forward with a bill looking to give contraceptives to jail inmates.

Now in her third year of sponsoring the bill, Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost (D–Salt Lake City) has made some changes to reflect financial responsibility and the overall importance of health care for inmates.

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HB102 would require jails to provide inmates with the contraceptives they were already taking prior to incarceration.

“We as state need to make sure that especially for women who already have a history of taking birth control are able to take that medication,” said Rep. Dailey-Provost. “This is an important way to improve outcomes for these individuals who are dealing with a lot of struggles right now.”

According to data presented by Dailey-Provost, the average jail stay is roughly 27 days, which is right around the length of time for a menstrual cycle.

“We know that as far as health outcomes are concerned, unintended pregnancies have a much higher incidence of negative outcomes both for the parents and for the children,” said Dailey-Provost, citing the rare instances of pregnancies taking place while someone is in jail. She says the medication is important to continue taking for those who may have participated in intercourse just days before serving jail time and for the days after release.

“Access to contraception, it’s just so crazy to me that we will even say ‘well, a woman clearly has a right to all her health care in jail’, which we do say, and then we say ‘well, not addictive controlled substances,’ OK, I understand that, ‘and not contraceptives’, I just don’t understand why that’s another one of our exceptions,” said Rep. Raymond Ward (R–Bountiful), who also works as a family physician. Ward also acknowledged that contraceptives can be used for other medical treatment but the main focus of the bill relies on contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy. “Those other reasons are also true but the prevention of pregnancies, so a woman can choose when to have kids and when not to have kids is the most common reason we use contraceptives.”

The fiscal note includes $88,500 in ongoing funds as the Utah Department of Health would cover the cost of contraceptives. In the first year of the bill, the funding had been slated to come from the jails themselves and in the second year, the bill ran out of time in session.

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With the financial adjustments, the Utah Sheriff’s Association fully supports the bill, USC President & Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen told Fox13.

Rep. Rosemary Lesser (D – Ogden) is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist and believes HB102 is very important for the health of incarcerated women.

“Some women are using contraception to treat GYN conditions,” Lesser told Fox13 in a statement. “Their medication should be continued just as it would be if she was taking medication for diabetes. If contraceptives are being used for family planning, then it needs to be continued to be effective.”

The bill was discussed in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday and received a 9-3 recommendation after some debate and discussion. HB102 will move to the House for a vote.