SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposal in the Utah Legislature would allow female jail inmates to take birth control while behind bars, though county sheriffs have raised concerns about cost of providing the medication.
Democratic Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost told the Salt Lake Tribune that birth control should be no different from other needed medications. Stopping birth control can affect hormones and increase the risk of becoming pregnant later, she said.
“We need to get out of the mindset that jail is punishment. Jail is paying a debt,” Dailey-Provost said. “We can’t punish women (by) increasing their risk of an unintended pregnancy.”
Women could bring in their prescriptions but the jails could also have an obligation to provide the medication. It would only apply to jails, not prison, and could cost the counties more than $320,000 yearly to pay for these contraceptives, a legislative fiscal analyst found.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said she likes the concept, but she worries about both the price of the medication and the extra staff needed to distribute it. Her jail sees 5,000 women each year, and the average stay is just under a month.
“When the jail and the county are responsible for the costs, that makes it really tough on us,” she said.
Utah Sheriffs’ Association has yet to take a formal position on the bill.
In Utah County, contraception is provided if there’s a medical need, such as severe cramping. There are very few requests, he said.
A similar bill was passed in California in 2017, specifying that female prisoners have the right to request both contraceptives and family planning services. In Utah, another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Angela Romero, has requested funding for a pilot program to teach reproductive health to women at the state prison.