Rep. Ann Pugh, D-Burlington, Vt., announced new legislation in the Vermont Statehouse Friday, which would extend access to contraception in a series of ways.
Some of the provisions of the bill, H.620, include allowing women to obtain 13 months' worth of birth control pills at a time, and creating value-based payments to health care providers to facilitate the insertion and removal of long-acting, reversible contraceptives.
Rep. Pugh said the goal of the legislation, which has tripartisan support from cosponsors, is to, over time, reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies in Vermont. Currently, Pugh said, the unintended pregnancy rate is 50 percent, and approximately three-fourths of those unintended pregnancies are publicly-funded.
The bill still needs the approval of the House Committee on Health Care before it is debated by the larger legislative body.
The legislation was introduced on the forty-third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, which granted legal access to abortions.
However, the issue of abortions remains very divisive. In March, the nation's highest court will hear a Texas case on access to abortion services. It will be the court's first abortion case in 20 years.
And on the campaign trail, several GOP candidates have advocated cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides many health care services aside from abortions.
The latest news from around the state
"I think we're all surprised that this is still a question," said Meagan Gallagher of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. "In 21st-century America, that women have to wonder whether or not they will be able to access safe and legal abortion is astounding to the vast majority of Americans."
"There's an attitude here among Planned Parenthood that it's a day to celebrate," Mary Hahn Beerworth of the Vermont Right to Life Committee said of the Roe vs. Wade anniversary. "It's the worst day of a woman's life, I don't care if you're pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, the day you walk in to have an abortion is a terrible, sad day."
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic candidate for President, issued a statement on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision saying he will do everything in his power to protect and preserve a woman's right to access abortion services.
Planned Parenthood has endorsed Hillary Clinton's candidacy for the White House.