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MI Lawmakers Ponder Sex Ed, Pharmacy Bias, Emergency Contraception

February 1, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - As the health care debate continues in Washington, legislators in Lansing are expected to take up a package of bills this week focused on health care for women and teens. One of the measures would require hospitals and urgent care clinics to offer emergency contraception.

Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-54) is a co-sponsor. She says the bill is necessary because some doctors, especially at hospitals affliated with religious organizations, are not making emergency contraception available.

"Some physicians in the emergency rooms will not offer it. Making it a requirement that it is available assists a woman who has been raped, or who comes in looking for help because her contraception failed. We did that because we are finding she isn't being given the information."

Another bill in the package would require pharmacists to fill prescriptions without bias, no matter what their personal views of any particular drug - including contraception. Smith, who is also making a bid for governor, says the bills have received strong support, including endorsements from Catholic Health Systems, Trinity Health and Ascension Health on requiring providers to offer emergency contraception.

The package of bills also covers sex education in schools. It would require school districts offering "sex ed" curriculum to meet certain criteria and to offer information based on facts.

"We are trying to resolve the abstinence-only conversations that have been going on, and make certain that when 'sex ed' is taught, it does indeed include medically accurate and appropriate information so kids can make infomed decisions."

Smith says research has shown that abstinence-only programs have not reduced the cases of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, among teens.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI