AUGUSTA — Maine women will be able to receive up to 12 months of birth control medication before renewing their prescriptions, under a new law passed by the Maine Legislature.

The House and Senate approved the measure on May 30 and 31, respectively, but it still faced a possible veto by Gov. Paul LePage. The governor did not veto the bill in the 10 days alloted and instead allowed it to become law without his signature.

Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, had sponsored the legislation to allow women to receive larger supplies of birth control in a single prescription rather than having to return to their pharmacy every month. Currently, Maine’s insurers allow patients to receive a maximum of three months’ supply of birth control and some require a refill trip each month.

“The purpose of this bill is to help remove this barrier to consistent access to prescribed, self-administered, FDA-approved hormonal contraceptive supplies,” McCreight said in a statement. “Arbitrary limits to contraception increase the risk of gaps in access and therefore of unplanned pregnancies. When pregnancies are planned, the pregnancies are healthier, the babies are healthier, and the mothers are healthier.”

The bill passed despite opposition from members of the insurance industry, some of whom testified during a public hearing in April that the law might create a new mandate.

An amended version of the bill, drafted after the public hearing, addressed those concerns – namely that it would not mandate that insurers provide access to a broader range of contraceptives at “no cost-share to members.”

The bill was supported by several advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

McCreight said in the public hearing that a 2011 survey of more than 84,000 women by the University of California at San Francisco found that women who received a year’s supply of birth control were 30 percent less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and were 46 percent less likely to have an abortion.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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