Bills inspired by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and backed by Planned Parenthood to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control are moving through the Michigan legislature.

House bills 5435 and 5436 are now pending floor votes in the lower chamber following approval by the House Health Policy Committee on Thursday. The legislation would allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives including birth control pills or patches, and require insurance companies to cover them.

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Rep. Kara Hope, D-Holt, a bill sponsor, told the committee last month the legislation is aimed at making it easier for women in areas lacking OB-GYNs to access birth control, according to Michigan Advance.

“This is a problem in rural areas, but it’s also a problem in the city of Detroit, which is near the bottom nationally when it comes to OB-GYN availability,” Hope said.

On Thursday, minor changes to the bills made it clear insurance policies must cover birth control prescribed and dispensed by a pharmacist, and that pharmacists can prescribe emergency contraception, the Iron Mountain Daily News reports.

“This substitute incorporates feedback from members and stakeholders,” said bill sponsor and committee chair Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Detroit. “I think it’s a good compromise and I look forward to the committee’s report.”

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The legislation is inspired by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ interpretation of Whitmer’s 2022 executive directive ordering state agencies to expand access to “reproductive health care.” That directive initially allowed pharmacists to prescribe birth control in partnership with doctors.

“Pharmacists are well-qualified to prescribe oral contraceptives, the patch, and the ring because their education and training includes a detailed understanding of the contents, impacts, and effects of drugs on the human body,” according to a 2022 press release from Whitmer’s office.

Sarah Wallett, Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s chief medical officer, alleged the legislation will “have positive health benefits for Michiganders” who struggle to access birth control, according to the Advance.

“Patients who live in a community without a health center or who face transportation barriers may find obtaining contraception through a pharmacist, many of whom are trusted in their community, to be more accessible, especially if they don’t have a primary care provider or insurance coverage,” she said.

HBs 5435 and 5436 are the latest in an onslaught of bills taken up by the Democratic majority to expand “reproductive health care” that have also included the repeal of several abortion restrictions. Other pending legislation aims to repeal the state’s parental consent law for abortions.

While the bills approved Thursday mandate LARA develop rules for pharmacists to issue birth control, and mandates some training for pharmacists, Republicans have pointed to potential dangers of cutting physicians out of the process.

Rep. Graham Filler, R-St. John, whose wife is an OB-GYN, detailed a few potential issues in committee last month.

“We know access to birth control is a wonderful thing,” he said. “Pharmacists maybe don’t have the training on preeclampsia, family history, what goes into (OB-GYNs’) decisions on what kind of birth control you use.”

The Legislature’s fixation with “reproductive health” stems in large part from Whitmer’s relentless focus on the issue since the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade. The governor has repeatedly highlighted Michigan’s successful Proposal 3, approved by voters in 2022, to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution while campaigning for President Joe Biden.

The ultimate goal, she told 19thNews, is to take Michigan’s abortion expansion nationwide.

“I’m hopeful that eventually we will have a national codification of abortion rights and that every woman and family and medical provider in this country has clarity that we are all endowed with the same freedoms to make our own decisions about our bodies and our future. That is my hope,” Whitmer said. “It’s gonna take a while to get there, which is why I’m so sober about the fact that I’m going to continue to fight for this.”