Birth Control Access in Arizona

Steven Greenhut
Resident Senior Fellow and Western Region Director, State Affairs
Courtney Joslin
Resident Fellow and Senior Manager, Competition Policy

Key Points

Many women have limited access to contraception.

51 percent of pregnancies in Arizona are unintended.

Taxpayers spent $670 million covering the medical costs associated with Arizona’s unintended pregnancies in 2010 alone.

A pharmacy access model would allow pharmacists to prescribe contraception, which they are qualified to do, and would give women more family planning options.


In the last several years, 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed pharmacy access bills, which allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraception to women. These bills expand pharmacists’ scope of practice and increase access to birth control for women—especially those who don’t have a regular physician, can’t afford an appointment or live in areas where doctors are in short supply.

Arizona should consider adopting the pharmacy access model for several reasons. Many Arizonans face a physician shortage and are unable to access the care they need. The Grand Canyon State ranks 44th for access to primary care physicians, with the situation particularly pronounced in rural areas, according to the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. Two Arizona counties have no OB-GYN doctors whatsoever as of 2019. 100 percent of Yuma County residents live in what the state deems a “primary-care shortage area.” Clearly, women in need of birth control face many barriers to access, which has adversely affected Arizona’s public health.

In 2011 (the latest year for this nationwide data) 51 percent of Arizona pregnancies were unplanned. This is high compared to the national average, which was 45 percent in the same year. The pharmacy access model would offer women in Arizona better access to effective contraception, leading to fewer unintended pregnancies and, in turn, fewer abortions.

Unplanned pregnancies in Arizona are costly for taxpayers, too. In 2010, federal and state funds paid for more than 75 percent of unintended births in Arizona. This amounted to over $670 million—almost $162 million of which was shouldered by the state government.

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