House approves contraceptive legislation

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(Host intro) The Vermont House has given its approval to legislation that will allow pharmacists to dispense the so called “morning after” contraceptive pill. An effort to block the sale of these pills to women under 16 without a doctor’s prescription was rejected by a two to one margin.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The legislation allows doctors and pharmacists to enter into a collaborative agreement that would allow the pharmacists to make these pills available without a specific prescription. This form of medication is not considered to be an abortion bill by many groups because it suppresses ovulation and blocks an egg from being fertilized.

The major fight over the legislation concerned an amendment that would require females under sixteen years of age to visit a doctor in order to obtain the pill.

Newport Rep. Duncan Kilmartin urged his colleagues to support the amendment. Without this protection, Kilmartin said sexual predators would be encouraged to continue their habits because they could force their victims to get the pill from the local pharmacy.

(Kilmartin) “We will condone the predatory action by adult males and teenage males, fathers stepfathers and boyfriends? Ask yourself – Will this body be a party to concealing the most heinous crime? How can the pediatricians, how can the Ob-Gyns for a moment stand up and vouch for this bill and oppose this amendment? God have mercy on us!”

(Kinzel) Waterbury Rep. Sue Minter, who has a teenage daughter, strongly opposed the amendment. Minter said she hoped her daughter would talk to her about her sexual experiences. But Minter thinks it’s critical to have this pill available as an option in case there isn’t time for those conversations to take place.

(Minter) “She may not in those few hours to prevent ovulation from occurring have the ability to find her doctor, to get an appointment, to talk to me or the doctor and to get the prescription. She might have the courage to walk into that pharmacy and maybe an unwanted pregnancy can be avoided.”

(Kinzel) The amendment was defeated by a vote of 95 to 45. Following that vote, the House gave its strong preliminary approval to the underlying legislation. If the measure becomes law, Vermont would become the seventh state in the country to adopt this approach.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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