State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) recently testified in the House Health and Aging Committee on House Bill (HB) 132—or the Ohio Prevention First Act—legislation that seeks to prevent unintended pregnancies by offering comprehensive, abstinence-inclusive sexual health education for teens and ensure greater access to contraception.
“By providing young adults with responsible sexual education, we can not only prevent unintended pregnancies, but educate those on the health risks of unprotected sex,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Adolescents will engage in sexual activity whether we acknowledge it or not. It is important that we provide them with the necessary tools to make informed decisions when it comes to sex and contraception.”
In 2014, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancyreported that Ohio has the 28th highest teen birth rate and unplanned pregnancy rate in the nation. This demonstrates a greater need for effective and accessible sexual education, as well as contraception. This legislation seeks to prevent health insurance companies from limiting or excluding coverage for FDA-approved prescription contraception, as well as require pharmacies to dispense any prescribed drug, device or over-the-counter medication in stock without delay and with respect for all customers.
“The Ohio Prevention First Act will also ensure that pharmacies provide access to contraception without bias or discrimination,” continued Lepore-Hagan. “I acknowledge the position of those that believe this law will infringe on their religious principles, and—whether one agrees or disagrees with the use of contraception—it is important to maintain that each individual has the right to make their own decisions regarding the use of contraception. We must enact policies that protect women’s reproductive rights and provide Ohioans with the resources to plan for healthy, thriving families on their own terms.”
In addition, this legislation will establish the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force, made up of government officials, health practitioners, and members of the community such as parents and teens, to better educate Ohioans about pregnancy prevention. HB 132 also requires the Department of Health to keep their website updated with accurate information on emergency contraception, and ensure that sexual assault victims have access to emergency contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections in all hospital emergency rooms.
Yesterday was the first hearing of the bill, which needs to pass both the House and Senate to become law by the end of this year. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past two General Assemblies.