San Bernardino County Requests Ban on Emergency Contraception in Public Clinics
Fearing that emergency contraception could be distributed to minors, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 last Tuesday to ask the federal government for a waiver permitting the county to stop dispensing the pills from its public clinics while it continues to receive $450,000 in federal family planning funds, the Los Angeles Times reports. The vote came after the supervisors learned that they could not require parental consent before teens receive EC. Because California law grants teens access to birth control, and federal law mandates that government agencies receiving family planning money use a portion of it to distribute EC, the supervisors' plan "effectively would circumvent state and federal law," according to the Times. Condemning the move as "dangerous and short-sighted, state health officials said that blocking EC distribution would actually increase the number of abortions. State health officials also said that nearly 75% of the 643 pills dispensed by the county last year were given not to teens but to low-income adult women without insurance or access to family planning counseling. Women's rights supporters say that EC will prevent 1.7 million unplanned pregnancies this year and consequently, 800,000 abortions.
Supervisor Jerry Eaves, who cast the only dissenting vote, said that he did not believe it was the "role of a local government body to create reproductive law." But Supervisor Dennis Hansberger argued for the "right to tailor family planning services to the community by better connecting teen patients with their parents." The waiver request will be received by HHS and given to President Bush for a final decision, presenting the administration with a "delicate and important test," the Times reports (Gold, Los Angeles Times, 3/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.