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Representative Proposes Bill To Ensure Utah Prisoners Have Access To Birth Control In Jail

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Utah lawmakers have tabled legislation requiring counties in the state to use tax money to provide female birth control in jails.   

State Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost, (D-24) had proposed a bill in the Utah legislature that would ensure women in county jail have access to birth control medications. Currently, it is illegal for visitors or correctional officers to have sex with inmates in Utah jails, but the lawmaker says the medications still provide benefits.

“Women in jails, the average stay is 27 days," Dailey-Provost says. "And if a woman is already on contraceptives and she’s had unprotected sex in the last 72 hours, if she is incarcerated and stops taking her hormonal contraceptive, the chances of an unintended pregnancy go very high.”

The freshman lawmaker says a number of women are prescribed contraceptive birth control pills to help prevent pregnancy and to treat medical conditions including ovarian cysts, hormone disorders, and migraine headaches.

Opponents of the HB275 argued the financial costs of providing female contraception are too high. 

“I had a lot of push-back from the sheriffs who are very concerned about the cost associated with it," She said. "The counties would have had to pick up the cost under the way that the bill was originally drafted. And that is a problem."

Dailey-Provost says she recognizes concerns that the prisoner contraception bill dictates county jail spending without providing financial support for the service.

The bill has been referred to a legislative interim services committee and will be revised before being reintroduced during the 2020 legislative session..

“This will be a really robust committee work over the next nine to ten months,
Dailey-Provost said. "We will come back with a more finely tuned bill next year. We have to do a whole re-envisioning about how it’s implemented, but the overall goal is to ensure that women have access to birth control.”

This bill does not include contraceptive support for women incarcerated in Utah prisons. Representative Dailey-Provost plans to address that issue with additional legislation.