R Sheets State Policy

Birth Control Access in New Jersey


Courtney Joslin
Resident Fellow and Senior Manager, Competition Policy
Mary Louise Gilburg
Former Research Associate, Competition Policy

Key Points

New Jersey has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the nation.

While the state is coordinating a multifaceted program to address this issue, it has yet to follow the lead of many other states and allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

Allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control is a proven solution to reduce unintended pregnancy and its downstream effects.

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Maternal mortality is a pressing concern in the United States. Currently, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate when compared with other high-income countries. The severity of the issue varies from state to state. New Jersey, specifically, has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the country.

To address the issue, New Jersey introduced a multifaceted program in 2021 called Nurture New Jersey. This plan includes many reforms targeted at improving maternal outcomes, such as home-visit programs for postpartum mothers; training and technical support for health care providers; and community-level educational campaigns for minorities.

Beyond the high maternal mortality rate, recent data shows that 44 percent of pregnancies in New Jersey are unwanted or wanted later. The leading causes of such pregnancies in the United States are not using contraception or using it incorrectly. In New Jersey, 33 percent of women who could become pregnant are not using contraception.

Research shows that increased contraceptive use can lead to a decreased incidence of pregnancy and a subsequent decrease in the risk of maternal morbidity and mortality. While Nurture New Jersey recognizes contraceptive access as being a tool for improving outcomes, state decision-makers should also consider allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraception directly to qualified patients. The pharmacy access model, which a number of states now allow, can make hormonal contraception easier to access and use. This, in turn, can lead to lower rates of unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality.

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