Jul 13, 2023 - Health

Groups expand Plan B access as abortion restrictions loom

Illustration of four hands reaching for the same pill.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Local family planning advocates are trying to increase access to birth control medications like Plan B in light of evolving abortion restrictions in Iowa.

Driving the news: The Iowa Legislature passed a bill banning most abortions around six weeks of gestation late Tuesday night, with exceptions for the life of the pregnant person or for rape and incest if they're reported to law enforcement within a certain time span.

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill Friday during The Family Leader’s summit, which will feature presidential hopefuls like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has similarly passed a six-week abortion ban.
  • Meanwhile, the ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic filed a lawsuit against the state Wednesday. They also asked a judge to temporarily block the law while the courts decide if it violates the Constitution.

State of play: For the last six months, statewide reproductive health group Family Planning Council of Iowa has been giving away free "health" kits at events and clinics containing two emergency contraception pills, condoms, lube and educational pamphlets.

  • They're also now mailing them out in discrete packages to those who request them in an effort to legally increase access to emergency contraceptives, Allison Smith, interim executive director of the organization tells Axios.

What they're saying: As Republican lawmakers continue to restrict access to abortions, Smith says offering the emergency contraceptive is a way to help people "determine their future."

  • Earlier this year, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird halted state funding for emergency contraception and abortions for victims of sexual assault. Smith says it is a financial burden placed on victims that she also hopes to address through the kits.

Between the lines: The Family Planning Council's effort was modeled after initiatives in other states, including Texas and Missouri, which banned abortions immediately after SCOTUS ruled citizens do not have a constitutional right to the procedure.

The big picture: As abortion access decreases nationwide post-Roe v. Wade, organizations across the country are trying to increase Plan B availability, including in vending machines across college campuses and public bathrooms.

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