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Lawmaker seeks to provide contraception medication to inmates

Jails may be required to administer certain previously-prescribed methods of contraception to inmates under a new bill introduced during the 2021 General Session. (Photo: Jason Olson/Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Jails may be required to administer certain previously-prescribed methods of contraception to inmates under a new bill introduced during the 2021 General Session. 

Under the proposed legislation, jails must provide prisoners the option to continue their medically-prescribed methods of contraception, whether it’s oral, injectable or an intrauterine device.

Jails are already responsible for continuing an inmate’s medication. However, forms of birth control are often left out of the picture. 

“Birth control for a patient who is incarcerated is not a discretionary medication,” said Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, bill sponsor. “It’s a necessary medication and it needs to be treated as such.”

History of inmate contraception bill

The proposal, HB 102, is no stranger to the legislative process. It’s the third year the bill has been introduced to the state legislature during its annual session. 

The bill initially passed in 2019. However, the original legislation ruled that jails would pay for the prescribed medications, which county jails argued was too expensive to carry out alone. 

Dailey-Provost said the fiscal note was too high in part because it anticipated more prisoners would need access to the medications than those who actually would. It also planned on only providing expensive, name-brand products rather than generic alternatives. 

After revising the number based on provided demographics and the average length of stay — as well as administering less expensive brands of birth control — the state representative said it’s more reasonable now. 

The 2021 version would also require the state health department to pay for the contraception medications, rather than individual jails. This is in line with the 2020 version of the bill. 

When this fiscal note was first revised in 2020, the bill died on the Senate floor because the Legislature didn’t vote before the session ended. Now, Dailey-Provost said she’s confident it will pass. 

Inmate contraception bill addresses more than just unintended pregnancies, lawmaker says

The state representative said the legislation is crucial to prevent unintended pregnancies and other negative outcomes for women who are in the criminal justice system. 

Although unintended pregnancies are rare within county jails, Dailey-Provost said, they are common when female inmates are released. If their medications aren’t continued while incarcerated, it puts them at higher risk for becoming impregnated once they return home, according to Dailey-Provost. 

“Of the women who experience pregnancy while they’re involved in and out of the judicial system, 89% of [the pregnancies] are unintended,” she said. 

Although unintended pregnancies aren’t always considered negative, “for women who are involved in the criminal justice system, an unintended pregnancy has a higher rate of poor outcomes, both for the parents, the mothers and the babies,” according to Dailey-Provost. 

Approving the bill would also help with situations outside of unintended pregnancies, she said. 

“Birth control is prescribed for a lot more things than just preventing pregnancy,” Dailey-Provost said. “There are a lot of medical conditions that women use birth control for,” like polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and irregular menstrual cycles. 

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