INDIANAPOLIS – Months after the approval of a near-total ban on abortion, Indiana lawmakers are working to expand access to contraception.

House Bill 1568 would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills and patches to patients instead of a doctor.

A similar proposal was introduced during the special session last summer as a House amendment. It failed by one vote after several lawmakers said they wanted the legislation to receive further review before voting in favor of the measure.

Even though the near-total abortion ban remains on hold, lawmakers backing the contraception bill say there’s growing momentum behind the measure.

“We started really talking about ways to make sure that we would get to a point where we didn’t have unintended/unwanted pregnancies, and better access to birth control seemed like a no-brainer,” said State Rep. Elizabeth Rowray (R-Yorktown), the bill’s author.

The bill would require patients to be age 18 and older and return for a follow-up visit to check for any side effects.

“Rural areas may have a pharmacy but they may not have an OB/GYN practice or even a primary care physician in their area,” Rowray said.

“How many doctors’ offices are open in the evening, Saturday, Sunday or holidays?” said State Rep. Rita Fleming, (D-Jeffersonville), a co-author on the bill.

Fleming, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist, has pushed for the proposal for several years.

“I think that a developing awareness of the need for greater access to contraceptives finally drove this to the forefront,” Fleming said.

According to the Indiana Pharmacy Association, 24 states and Washington, D.C. allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

“Pharmacists are going to be receiving the same training using the same standards that other health care providers use to prescribe contraception,” said Veronica Vernon, president of the Indiana Pharmacy Association, who testified in support of the measure.

But some raised concerns during Tuesday’s committee hearing on the bill. The Indiana State Medical Association wants to see some limitations, such as the number of times a pharmacist can prescribe birth control per patient, according to Dr. Andreia Alexander, an emergency physician.

“Patients receive the highest quality of care when a physician is involved with their care,” Dr. Alexander told the committee.

The House Public Health committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.