Hickenlooper Signs Birth-Control Reform, Extending Prescriptions Up to a Year

Planned Parenthood, with Representative Brittany Pettersen (front row center), celebrates birth-control reform.
Planned Parenthood, with Representative Brittany Pettersen (front row center), celebrates birth-control reform. Courtesy of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law today, June 5, that allows women to get up to a year's worth of birth control with a single prescription. The law requires that health-care insurers extend the current prescription limit of three months to twelve months in order to reduce pregnancies resulting from gaps between birth-control prescriptions.

"This law is a great example of how we can work across the aisle to bring meaningful changes to people’s lives,” said Hickenlooper in a written statement. “This is an important step in supporting women across Colorado, especially those in rural areas.”

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and other supporters applauded the move on the steps of the Capitol building in Denver.

"We are ecstatic today that the governor will sign this very important legislation," says Vicki Cowart, CEO of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. "This means that Coloradans can come get their exam, get their prescription and pick up twelve months of birth control in one visit."

Cowart believes that the current three-month prescription cap puts women at risk of unintended pregnancy because they might not be able to get the prescription filled in time, missing weeks or months of birth-control treatment. 

"No more bus fares back and forth to the center," Cowart says. "No more trying to fit it into your schedule that third month or fourth month.... That means fewer unintended pregnancies and, let's face it, healthier outcomes for Colorado women."

Representative Brittany Pettersen, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill with Republican Representative Lois Landgraf, says that women are often so busy that they can't make it in time to pick up their birth control, adding that "this is a very simple change, but this is going to have a very big impact. This will reduce unintended pregnancies by 30 percent, and abortions by 48 percent."

The reform applies to birth-control methods that require a prescription, including pills and the NuvaRing, and will go into effect on January 1, 2019. The law has broad support from both parties. "We got this through in split chambers, because in Colorado, we actually work together to get things done and solve problems," says Pettersen.

The victory is the next addition to Colorado's pregnancy-reduction campaign, which has seen significant successes. In January, the Department of Health and the Environment reported that Colorado has seen a 50 percent reduction in both teen abortions and births under the Family Planning Initiative, which provided low- or zero-cost contraceptives to 36,000 women between 2009 and 2015.

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Grant Stringer has covered everything from high-powered energy politics at the Capitol to reproductive rights and homelessness. He can typically be found running to press conferences in the heat of the summer while playing Fugazi and Ty Segall songs as loud as is humanly possible.
Contact: Grant Stringer