Birth control is an essential part of health care — it’s time to treat it that way

Right now, Nevada has a chance to embrace a policy that would go a long way toward creating much-needed health care access and economic equity in our state – and it’s all about birth control.

Contraception doesn’t just enable greater personal autonomy; it is also a critical piece of the physical and financial health of those Nevadans who depend on it. We need health care policy that treats birth control like the essential care it is, and that recognizes patients should not need a doctor’s prescription to get it from their pharmacist.

This legislative session, I am sponsoring Senate Bill 190, which will dramatically improve access to contraceptives and eliminate health care barriers for women. The legislation allows Nevada women to go to a local pharmacy and pick up birth control without a prescription from their doctor. The legislation also ensures birth control will still be covered under the patient’s insurance.

I know first-hand that many women often face a months-long wait before securing an appointment with their OB-GYN in order to get a prescription for birth control, and oftentimes, this is a prescription they have been using for years. Other women may lack regular access to transportation for doctors’ appointments, thereby limiting their ability to obtain a prescription. For others, the barrier lies in juggling multiple roles, including providing care for family members, working, and assisting with their children’s education.

None of these things, however, should mean women have to forego caring for their own health and wellbeing due to lack of access to contraceptives. The simple changes proposed in Senate Bill 190 would significantly improve the lives of tens of thousands of Nevadans by eliminating obstacles to obtaining birth control due to unnecessary barriers.

If passed, Nevada would become the 13th state in the country to allow pharmacists to dispense birth control. We should seize the opportunity to be a leader on this health care policy. While reproductive health care is increasingly under attack in other states across the nation, what we do here in Nevada can serve as an example for the rest of the country.

In 2021, it is beyond time that we do our part by listening to science and health care providers to ensure patients have access to the care they need -- especially something as fundamental as birth control. More than 99 percent of sexually active women have used a form of birth control at some point in their lives. We need to treat access as the cornerstone of sexual and reproductive health that it is.

Medical research supports this too. From treating acne to ovarian cysts, birth control has been prescribed to millions of women to benefit our health. Additionally, access to birth control has a direct link to reduced infant and maternal mortalities.

This legislation will improve the health and lives of Nevadans, and, with a health care system that too often leaves communities behind, it’s time to step up and knock those barriers down.

Nicole Cannizzaro is the first woman ever elected as majority leader of the Nevada Senate. She’s served in that role since 2019. First elected in 2016, Nicole works as a chief deputy district attorney in the gang unit at the Clark County District Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas.