Welcome to “The Quickie” — Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s daily tipsheet on the top health care & reproductive rights stories of the day. You can read “The Quickie'' online here.
In today’s Quickie: birth control to become accessible over the counter in AZ, ME bill expanding access to abortion later in pregnancy sent to Gov, and new study shows doubling of maternal mortality rates.
BIRTH CONTROL TO BECOME ACCESSIBLE OVER THE COUNTER IN ARIZONA: Yesterday, Gov. Katie Hobbs signed an order to make contraceptive medications, including oral and hormonal contraception, available over the counter at a pharmacy for adults without a doctor’s prescription. People 18 and older only need to complete a screening and a blood pressure test. Arizona joins more than 20 other states with statutes that let pharmacists dispense self-administered birth control without a prescription.
Last month, Gov. Hobbs also signed an executive order to safeguard abortion patients and providers from prosecution. Abortion remains banned in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
BILL EXPANDING ACCESS TO ABORTION LATER IN PREGNANCY SENT TO MAINE GOVERNOR’S DESK: Yesterday, the full Maine Senate passed a bill expanding access to abortion later in pregnancy, sending the bill to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk. Mills named the measure a top priority for 2023 and is expected to sign it into law in the coming weeks. The bill ensures that abortion decisions remain between patient and doctor throughout pregnancy, creating a broad health and life exception after viability and eliminating criminal penalties for providers. Maine’s current law, which allows abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if a patient’s life is at risk, has forced patients to travel outside of New England for care even in dire circumstances. Now, they will be able to receive care in their own communities.
This expansion is critical to ensure pregnant people can have access to the best care, no matter their circumstances.
“A majority of lawmakers voted in accordance with evidence-based best practices and facts,” Nicole Clegg, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Northern New England, said. “Abortion is healthcare, and today’s vote means that no Maine family will be forced to suffer through unnecessary emotional, physical, psychological and financial harm simply to receive abortion care they need, when they need it. Maine’s medical providers will no longer have to send patients out of state for care they are trained to provide. Maine will no longer criminalize abortion care.”
Read more at AP.
NEW STUDY: MATERNAL MORTALITY RATES MORE THAN DOUBLED IN LAST 20 YEARS: This week, new research was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, showing that maternal mortality rates have more than doubled between 1999 and 2019. The study estimated that there were around 505 maternal deaths in 1999 compared to 1,210 maternal deaths in 2019, an almost 140% increase. These results are especially concerning as similar countries to the U.S. have been seeing decreasing rates of maternal mortality.
Black and Indigenous communities had the highest median state maternal mortality rates. For Black pregnant people, the median state maternal mortality ratio more than doubled from 26.7 in 1999 to 55.4 in 2019. For Native American and Alaska Native communities, the rate exploded from 14.0 in 1999 to 49.2 in 2019.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, Chief Medical and Health Officer for March of Dimes, said to USA Today. “We remain the most dangerous developed country to give birth in, and when you look at this particular data, it’s getting worse – and it’s getting worse for Black and brown women.”
Researchers analyzed maternal deaths in every state and also analyzed maternal mortality ratios for five racial and ethnic groups.